I am sitting in the lobby of the CARITAS Guest House in Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on a chilly Monday morning, where I have just been discussing the upcoming Parliamentary and Presidential elections with CAFOD partners and colleagues over breakfast. Actually, that was the topic of conversation last night too, and the night before that.
Yet, this isn’t just an intellectual exercise or a debate of political ideals – the outcome of these elections is absolutely central in determining the future of this country.
People’s lives may depend on it.
Travelling around Goma, you wouldn’t know it is nearly election time. There are no campaign posters to be seen. I am told this is because officially campaigns are only allowed to begin one month before the elections.
In contrast, in Kinshasa, the nation’s capital and the seat of the Presidency, there are enormous billboards outlining the achievements of the Kabila government and other banners declaring his ‘certain victory’ in November.
How ‘certain’ this victory is, however, is not as clear cut as Kabila’s supporters might like to present. Despite its decreasing popularity in certain areas, the Presidential party and its allies can probably still easily mobilise the largest number of votes.
In contrast, the three main opposition parties (although we should note that there are lots) are fractured and generally unwilling to cooperate with one another. However, two weeks ago, there was a meeting of two of these parties- the UNC (Union pour la nation congolaise) and the UPDS (Union pour la démocratie et le progrès social). (more…)