THE PLANNED general election in the Democratic Republic of Congo next month ‘will not happen’. That was the prediction this week of Christian Malanga , the President of the United Congolese Party, just weeks before the planned plebiscite on 23 December.
Last week the President of the DRC, Joseph Kabila, invited journalists to his residence in Kinshasa to launch the election campaign. Kabila has said that he will not stand. Although his electoral mandate ended in 2016 he has continued in power and acceded to requests for new elections.
However, Christian Malanga, who created the United Congolese Party and last year established a Government-in-exile, said it was a sham that the elections would go ahead. “He won’t hold these. It was simply a way of appeasing the
international community,” he told The Church of England Newspaper this week.
The current administration has heralded the elections, even promising that the ballots will enter a new era, with electronic voting for the country’s 18 million voters. However, even that figure is disputed. President Kabila cited one reason for delaying the election as ‘the number of electors is unknown’.
But this desire for electronic voting has not convinced his opponents. “The country is not capable of having elections. The DRC lacks infrastructure and does not even have clean water, never mind the electricity for the voting machines. Even the roads are non-existent,” said Christian Malanga. The President’s critics have also hit out at demands from the current administration that presidential candidates put up a US$100,000 registration fee.
Some have suggested that this sum is coming from Kabila himself, to ensure that only candidates he has vetted are allowed to stand. Constitutionally he is not allowed to stand again, but Malanga’s claim that the elections will be aborted again will spark unease in the international community. The election campaigning has already started in the country, but there are fears for fresh violence.
In August, according to Human Rights Watch, government security forces opened fire on opposition supporters. Up to 300 people are claimed to have been killed while the DRC Government was accused of persecuting opposition figures. That is one reason why Christian Malanga is not contesting these elections.
Instead, he told us: “The only solution is a replacement by a transitional government.” That idea is supported by churches in the country but the political atmosphere makes it difficult to speak out. Campaigners say the country has suffered ‘appallingly’ under Kabila’s leadership.
One observer told us: “Malanga is the only true opposition leader. He has organised grassroots communities throughout the country. But the country needs the international community to help and support the transition to democracy.”