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DRC: Optimism on Eve of Landmark Election

Categories: Sub-Saharan Africa, D.R. of Congo, Citizen Media, Elections, Governance, Politics, Protest

Foli Kat, a new blogger based in the US, has been following Global Voices's coverage of Congolese bloggers writing about the July 30th election and has a very different perspective from the largely pro-opposition bloggers highlighted in my [1] previous [2] posts [3].

Foli Kat writes [4] that whatever their shortcomings, these elections are an important first step for building a new democracy:

Quelque soit le nombre des irregularites, puisque le peuple congolais est pris en otage il y a pres de 4 decades, l'homme congolais devrait se passer des ambitions personnelles et aurait le devoir de porter l'interet de toute la nation sur sa tete. Notre petite constitution garantit deja un certain degre de controle et de balance entre les differents organes. Comme notre democratie n'est qu'a son enfance, allons aux elections, elisons les leaders qui en sortiront meme si le systeme a quelques erreurs, nous avons tout le temps a les corriger aussi longtemps que nous restons vigilants. Batissons ce beau et geant pays au coeur de l'Afrique. Aidons notre peuple a retrouver sa liberte et sa dignite humaine.

Whatever the number of irregularities, as the Congolese people have been held hostage for almost four decades, the Congolese man should look past personal ambitions and accept that the responsibility of the whole nation rests on his shoulders. Our little constitution already guarantees a certain degree of control and balance between the different branches. As our democracy is only in its infancy, let's have elections, let's choose leaders; even if the system has some errors, we have all the time to correct them as long as we remain vigilant. Let's build this beautiful and giant country in the heart of Africa. Help our people to find their liberty and human dignity.

And in response to several Congolese bloggers’ repeated accusations of election irregularities and criticims of government treatment of opposition candidates and protestors, he has this to say: [4]

Dans la democratie, on doit faire une difference entre une manifestation pacifique et l'autre qui devient toute suite desordonnee et troublante. A chaque fois que les militants de l'UDPS marchent, ils finissent souvent a semer le desordre–attacker tout celui qui a des idees differentes des leurs, casser tout ce qu'ils rencontrent le long de leur marche,… Ce comportement, meme si on n'est pas partisan de ce qui assure l'ordre public est condamnable et doit etre contenu…pour le congolais agir dans la democratie c'est rouler a tombeau ouvert sur une autoroute qui n'a pas de code de conduite…

In a democracy, there is a difference between a peaceful demonstration and a demonstration that quickly becomes disorderly and unsettled. Every time the UDPS militants march, they often finish by sowing disorder – attacking all those whose ideas differ from theirs, breaking everything that they encounter only their march… This behavior, even if one is not in favor of those who enforce the public order, is reprehensible and should be contained…the Congolese act in a democracy like someone going too fast on a highway that has no speed limit…

Concernant les irregularites denoncees dans l'organisation des elections du 30 Juillet 2006—personne ne peut affirmer qu'il peut y avoir des elections nulle part au monde sans qu'il y ait quelques defaillances ici la.

Meme dans les vielles democracies comme aux USA ou je vis depuis plus de 20 ans, nous avons encore en memoire l'image tarnie des elections de l'an 2000—Bush avait arrache la victoire a Al Gore au vu et au su de tout le monde. Jusqu'a ce jour je doute que mes deux choix faits en 2000 et en 2004 auraient ete pris en compte par le serveur qui les capitalisait. A New York, au bureau de vote tu trouve les noms des candidats groupes en democrates, republicains, et independants. Pour faire ton choix, tu dois bouger une petite manivelle a cote du nom du candidat jusqu'a placer un X sur le carre a cote de son nom–Comment est ce que je sais que mes choix n'ont pas ete pris en compte—parce qu'en 2000 comme en 2004, mes X ne se sont pas loges exactement dans les carres, j'ai meme du appeller la dame qui surveillait la machine pour m'en rassurer. La pauvre dame ne pouvait rien pour moi. Alors j'ai remis les manivelles a leurs positions originales et j'ai essaye celles du cote republicain, mon X s'est exactement loge dans le carre a cote du nom de Bush!!!!–des ma sortie, j'ai dit a ma femme que ces machines ont ete manipulees et mes choix ne seraient pas comptes comme autant les choix de tous ceux qui ont rempli leur devoir d'electeur a de telles machines manipulees.

Concerning the alleged irregularities in the organization of the July 30th 2006 elections–no one can claim that there are elections in any part of the world without some problems here and there.

Even in old democracies such as the United States where I have lived for more than twenty years, we still have the tarnished image of the 2000 elections–Bush stole Al Gore's victory right in front of everyone. To this day I doubt that the votes I cast in 2000 and 2004 were counted by the person adding them up. In New York, at the polling place, you find the candidates’ names grouped [by party] into democrats, republicans and independents. To make your choice, kyou must move a little lever next to the name of the candidate just to place an X in the box next to their name – How do I know that my votes were not counted–because in 2000 as in 2004, my X was not placed exactly in the square. I even called over the woman supervising the machine to make sure. The poor woman could not do anything for me. So I pushed the levers back to their original positions and I tried the Republican side. My X was placed exactly in the square next to Bush!!!–after I left, I told my wife that the machines had been manipulated and my vote would not be counted just as the votes of all those who fulfilled their duty as voters at machines that had been similarly manipulated.

These conversations are part of an ongoing debate on the upcoming elections. (For more see: “Elections, Mining Corruption, Peacekeepers & More [2],” “Coup Attempts and More Questions on the Upcoming Elections [3],” “As Elections Approach, the Congo‚Äôs Bloggers Discuss Recent Violence, Media Repression and the Limits of Foreign Aid [1],” “Last Minute Campaigning and Complaining [5],” and other posts [6] on the Democratic Republic of the Congo)