News / Africa

Election Mania Sweeps Across Congo’s Troubled East

In the final week before Congo's elections, campaign trucks - like this one for the ruling party that at one time enjoyed immense popularity in the east - drive down the dirt roads of the North Kivu regional capital, Goma, November 2011.
In the final week before Congo's elections, campaign trucks - like this one for the ruling party that at one time enjoyed immense popularity in the east - drive down the dirt roads of the North Kivu regional capital, Goma, November 2011.
Heather Murdock

Tensions and spirits are running high in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo as voters and politicians gear up for the second set of post-civil war elections. In the war-torn province of North Kivu, campaigners have taken to the streets, and some activists say only political change will bring peace to this region.  

Next to a market on the dirt roads in downtown Goma, this truck is festooned with campaign posters, and dancers in traditional garb stomp on the flat bed.

Every candidate in next week's presidential and parliamentary elections is assigned a number. One man said voters should and will choose number three, the current president, Joseph Kabila.

Revitalizing a devastated region

He said North Kivu has been a war zone for decades. He also said Kabila needs to stay on top and be given time to implement a 2008 power-sharing agreement that was designed to bring calm to the east.

Kabila once enjoyed massive popularity in this province, but a few streets over, supporters of candidate number five, Vital Kamerhe, gather outside his local campaign headquarters waving their hands, fingers spread wide, shouting “number five.”

Kamerhe is among the top three out of 11 contenders for the presidential seat, and is particularly popular in the east. Standing on a street corner asking passersby about the elections, it takes just minutes to draw a crowd declaring their support for Kamerhe.

When asked what will happen if the president wins, this pro-Kamerhe crowd yells out, saying it would be proof that the ruling party rigged the elections. They say only fraud could make their man lose, and if he does, they will take to the streets.

Support for opposition candidate

Christian Badose is candidate number 100 of about 1,800 running for parliament. He supports Etienne Tshisekedi, perhaps the most formidable opposition candidate for President Kabila. Tshisekedi already has declared himself the winner, and called for the release of political prisoners.

Badose said his candidate will sweep the elections if they are done right. But he said the electoral commission has neither the will nor the capacity to hold transparent, free elections.

He said the commission is made up of the same people that ran the 2006 elections, which were marred by violence and rumors of fraud.

But at the president’s regional headquarters, Cyrille Muhongya, who leads the ruling party’s local campaign, said the electoral commission is an independent body preparing to conduct fair and democratic elections on November 28, as scheduled.

Hoping for positive change

Muhongya said the elections are being watched closely by international observers. He said he is confident the president will be re-elected fairly. He added, though, that Kabila and his supporters are prepared to step aside quietly in the unlikely event that they lose at the polls.

Many Congolese aid workers say they also supported the president in his 2006 bid - the first Congolese elections in 40 years. But they say this province was promised a lot of desperately needed resources and development, and nothing has changed.

Justine Masika is the director of the aid organization Synergy of Women for Victims of Sexual Violence in Goma. She helps rape victims get medical, legal and psychological aid. She said political change and development is the only way to stop the rape and looting that is still crushing villages in the Congolese countryside.

Like many activists in the east, Masika said the old regime made promises that were never kept. New leadership, she said, may have the political will to develop government institutions, like much-needed additional courts, or provide basic services like water and electricity - and offer some relief to the region.






You May Like

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid