Rapport on the campaigns for the general elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Report on one month campaigns for the general elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Area covered: Goma, North Kivu, the Democratic Republic of Congo,
Period: November 19th, to December 18th 2023.
We noted the improvement in terms of free expression, free movements, access to media, the use of internet and no restrictions of internet, no disruption of public meeting, no physical attacks during the meetings, no threats and intimidations against candidates, accessibility to public places and holding meetings even beyond required ours. This is much better compared to previous elections.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will hold general elections on Wednesday December 20th, 2023, to elect the President, the National Members of Parliament, Provincial Members of Parliament, and local councils in big cities. About 40 million Congolese have been called by the National Independent Electoral Commission known as (CENI) including Congolese of the Diaspora from five countries mainly South Africa, Belgium, France, the United States of America and Canada.
This is the fourth general elections since the war in 1996 which concluded to a peace agreement where the only way to claim power in DRC is through elections. However the country is facing wars and insecurity in some places and as consequences three territories Kwamouth, Masisi and Rutshuru will not vote. Kwamouth is facing ethnic conflict, Rutsuru and Masisi are occupied by M23 rebels backed by Rwanda.
So far generally the campaigns have been peaceful and the degree of violence which observers expected did not happen, so far generally there is a consensus that these campaigns were most peaceful despite the fact that we observed some scene of violence in some places.
All the candidates were allowed to do their campaigns without obstructions by state actors, the challenge is that some candidates did not have the necessary financial capacity for campaigns in a big country like DRC and without infrastructure such as roads, some presidential candidates did not even start their campaigns apart some statements on social media and with the press, others could not cover the whole country and had to stop the campaigns while only two candidates mainly the outgoing President Felix Tshisekedi and Moise Katumbi who is considered as the main opposition challenger. We estimate that Moise Katumbi covered 75% of the DRC and the current outgoing President Felix covered 90% of the entire DRC provinces.
Three acts of violence were observed by our team and again we shall only focuses on areas we were able to cover during these campaigns.
Fighting among agents of the candidates who were hired to place their posters on various places in the streets of Goma. In cases most candidates hired drunkard young people and they could remove some posters of other candidates in order to place theirs, we observed fighting in many places and some people were injured.
On this it is important to put in place measures that engage candidates to involve their supporters well trained and also use or employ people who are professional. There is a need to promote people involved in events planning and in campaigns. It is also important to engage the security services and local leaders in the area where any activity is going to take place,
The second incident of violence acts of hostility against some candidates especially against Moise Katumbi, the day he reached Goma some young people placed stones in some areas in order to protest against his coming to Goma. Then at his meeting some young people chanted songs against him. However our team observed that most of those young people could have worked in partnership with Katumbi’s team in order to create a confusion and cause violence with the objective to show that he is a victim. All these young people are well known and are closer to pressure groups where some candidates of Moises Katumbi came from.
There is a need of strong civic education among people, there is need to deploy intelligence services in order to collect information, and then the police to apprehend those who are causing trouble during the campaigns,
There is a need to carry out serious investigations in all acts of violence to establish responsibility and those the perpetrators accountable,
The last incident of violence was verbal attacks among candidates in order to please their supporters, in various public meetings candidates were cheered at when they attack verbally their opponents. Most of the candidates used their times attacking others rather than presenting their manifesto to people so that the masses know what they should expect from the candidates. In a situation where they presented their programmes most of the issues they presented were just similar and none of the candidates argued about an alternative programme from what the current government is doing.
There is a need to empower leaders in various political parties in order to come up with alternative solutions which they should present to people,
There is a need to strengthened the existing opposition and enable them to engage with people,
There is need to encourage and work together with political parties and the civil society in order to engage on public discussions at the community levels and others means of communications,
There is a need to work together with the opposition in order to make it more responsible, credible and trustworthy and discourage populism.
Interactions with people
Candidates were giving money to people in order to seduce them to vote for them and that money was called “transport refund” even if the participants were in their areas of residence. Candidates worked generally with small organized groups and through those groups they held campaigns.
There is need to discourage money during the campaigns and on contrary education people to support financially their candidates, and if possible even criminalize money and other gifts during campaigns,
Most of the candidates at all levels did not talk about their programs but only promised small things around such as giving money for business, paying for hospitals and school fees, and giving clothes for women generally.
There is a need to empower candidates and political parties to focus on fundamental issues of good governance, poverty, development, human rights, the rule of law, sustainable economy, the infrastructure among others,
The problem of ethnicity was visible and should be given a particular attention in order to build a strong society which is based on values and competencies rather than the area of origin. In Goma even campaigns were based on ethnic tendency among Bahutu, Banande and those from South Kivu. In each public meeting you could clearly observe the presence of ethnical belongs of the population depending on the candidate who is there. Each ethnic group supported their candidates. What we did not see much was religious belonging may because both Catholics and Protestants were aside of the whole electoral process. However we observed that dominance of Muslims as candidates, and lastly there was no much debate between those of East and those of West.
To put in place programs and activities that promotes cohabitation and working together among various ethnic groups,
To evaluate the existing programs and services which are based on ethnic tendency and discourage them,
To combat all initiatives that are more based on ethnic tendency in order to foster diversity and the living together in the community,
The national Radio Television known as RTNC generally covered campaigns of the ruling party, the other candidates were given opportunities to present only their programs. However Radio Okapi which belongs to the United Nations gave some chances to candidates to share their ideas, and the only media broadcasted what they wanted depending on the candidate they supported.
We do make the following suggestions which we believe will make the whole Democracy process in DRC a reality.
To provide funding opportunities to various actors of the Civil Society in order to conduct Civic Education and foster initiatives that promote democracy at all levels,
Provide funding opportunities to programs focusing on Adult Education because there is a clear relationship between education and democracy,
To support income generating activities amongst poor communities in order to reduce dependence on candidates and put attention on poverty reduction,
To enable political parties to be able to access the required funding during the electoral process,
The DRC Government
To put in place the necessary laws which regulates activities of political parties, to regulate all activities connected to campaigns and put in place the options of primaries within political parties,
To restore the constitutional order for normal elections basing on the international standards through constitutional amendments,
To make priority funding for political parties and put in place all necessary measures that support civic education,
To investigate and hold accountable all those involved in acts of violence at all levels during the campaigns and enable the security services to play a role in the whole process,
Goma December 18th, 2023
Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos