Delayed Congo poll offers slim hope for change

FT News


Elections on Sunday were set to herald the country's first transition of power by the ballot box with President Joseph Kabila stepping down after seventeen years in office. But an explosion of violence has caused the polls to be postponed. All the Ryan discusses what happened and why it matters with the F T Africa editor David pilling. David how much violence has been in the run-up to the polls and who's behind it wouldn't immediate run up to this election. There's been a gradual build up a violence. A number of opposition rallies have been broken up by security forces. There have been people shot dead and numbers a quite hard to come by. There was a rally there was supposed to have taken place earlier this week in Concetta by the opposition leading candidate Martin for you, which was broken up by tear gas, in fact, never took place, but one has to go even further back because this election is really been rumbling on for years. It was meant to have taken place in two thousand and sixteen and if you count the election violence, the protests against the election, not taking place and the authorities reaction to that. Then there have been dozens indeed hundreds of deaths that this election has already been responsible for as to who takes blame for this violence. A lot of it is security forces of the. Administration of the state, which is really not permitted opposition rallies, which has overreacted to demonstrations people being very frustrated at the slow pace of these elections. And now, of course, the further postponing of the poll from Sunday because that postponement is not only because of this violence is also an Ebola outbreak in the east of the country. There's voting machines which went up in flames allegedly anyway, and the electoral commission has used this as somewhat say an excuse or pretext to push the elections out a further week until December the thirtieth who are the main candidates in. What are the prospects? There are really three candidates. First of all, you have a man code Emmanuel shoddy who is running really as the proxy of Joseph Kabila, the man who's been in power for seventeen years his prospects. Most observers of Congo thing that he will win by hook. Oh by crook because the regime that's been. Power wants him to win and Kabila has shown no sign of really wanting to relinquish power. And that this is his chance to hold onto power by using what the Congolese are calling a dolphin. The opposition had briefly United on the one candidate Martin for ULA who's an oil executive who has the backing of two other politicians who would have run for the presidency. But for one reason or another worthy not allowed into the country or not allowed to run those struck down by a constitutional court. So in a sense, he's also a proxy for them. Unfortunately for the opposition the opposition split just a couple of days after agreeing to put up a United candidates, and there's another candidate called Phoenix Tshisekedi who represents in a sense, his father who for years and years and years was the official opposition who ran against not only Kabila, but Joseph Kabila's father, Lauren Kabila and bef-. For him even against Mabuza cisa cycle. He died before this election was able to take place. And so now Felix who has really the name recognition is also running can you tell us a little bit more let Mr. Sharara, then what kind of person is he well, he's not very well known in the country. He was the interior minister. And he was the interior minister at a period of some volatility when there were demonstrations in the streets of Kinshasa, December two thousand sixteen that was the first time that does Kabila at effectively refused to hold an election as he ought to have done because the constitution dictated that. And then the Kasai region also erupted into violence, and there was a very brutal security crackdown as a result of that should Dary is now the subject of European sanctions. Because inefficient he's been blamed as the head of the interior ministry for these crackdowns, which involve many, many deaths apart from that he is thought to be very loyal to Kabila. That's why Kabila chose him. The assumption is that he will do Kabila's bidding, what's at stake in this election. Why is it so important? Well, the DRC the Democratic Republic of Congo is a huge nation in the center of Africa in the Great Lakes region. It's a nearly European sized nation covered in rainforest. Very poor communications it can be impossible to get from one part of the country to another. They're very few roads. But what it does have is huge minora resources, for example, cobalt which is needed for a mobile phones, and which is needed for electric car batteries and really the green revolution. That were also expectantly awaiting in the west is really cannot happen without the resources pouring out of conga, but congress has been very poorly run to put it mildly. It's a state in a kind of near state of collapse. The somehow been held together by Joseph Kabila sort of patched together. So who runs this country? It is important for the outside world. And I would argue more importantly is very important for eighty million Congolese who despite sitting on all this huge wealth have been so poorly governed there among the poorest people in Africa with really terrible statistics. If you look at the health statistics life expectancy to disticts access to education access to hospitals and access to anything. They've really been let down by leadership has acted more as a kind of an extractive leadership to extract wealth from them than as a leadership. That's really there to serve them. So the hope for anyone is that at the very least Joseph Kabila who has been in power for seventeen years has agreed to step down. And although he is certainly trying to control the situation via his proxy, Emmanuel Chaudhary, maybe it'll get out of hand. Maybe he won't be able to control the system, and may be this in this, very messy difficult complicated. Way is one step towards a more Representative damore. Crecy given the way that you described Congo and electro system, there is this really likely to be a free election. Who's monitoring the poll it's not like to be free election tool. It's being monitored by civil society by the Catholic church by the African Union, but that doesn't have a great record in calling out elections and decisively saying that election has been stolen the expectation is that as long as the violence is not egregious as long as the theft of the poll is not obvious, then they'll be enough constituents, even including western diplomats and western representatives who will say look look stability of this country is more important than plunging it into a kind of post electoral crisis. So the expectation is that even if the process is as unfair as many people expect it to be that somehow enough people turn a blind is who it and the country. Will stumble on citizens effectively looked like the status quo continue with Mr Kabila remaining in power behind the same. That's what I think is not exactly the status quo because once you've stepped down you stepped down the president of the country. Does have a lot of constitutional powers should area said to be an absolute stalwart of Joseph Kabila. But who knows we've seen in neighboring Angola? When president does Santos gave up power after I think, it was thirty seven years in office and chose his successor gel. Lorenzo suddenly, and so has turned on the dos Angeles family as clamped down on a lot of the structures that had been set up over the previous nearly four decades, and we're seeing real change there. So I think once you relinquish the levers of power, you may try to hold onto them, and you may be successful in doing that. But we don't know what about the people on the street. Do you think they accept the result of medical Bilas choice whims? I think some will. But they'll be whole areas that weren't Kinshasa is an opposition stronghold. They've never liked Kabila who kind of holds up in the presidential palace playing. Jio games and on his farm driving around in his motorbike, very rarely appears in public even when the country descends into its near perennial crises. He's a kind of an invisible figure in the capital. And there are a whole other regions is the Kasai region, which is a huge region in the center of the country, which certainly belongs to the opposition then going to happily accept Kabila's nomination being elected. And then there's the whole east of the country a thousand miles away from Kinshasa very hard to reach the only way you can reach. It really is by plane or by boat along the Congo river. Maybe by motorbike all the way across the country. There you have minora resources, you have dozens and dozens of militia groups rebels. It's a very volatile part of the country and part of the world. And who knows what they're going to make this election. You've talked a lot about Congo's vast wealth. What do you think businesses will be heading for from this election? I think businesses really hope for some measure of style. Ability. I mean, there's a lot of rhetoric about paying tax in about being there for the good of the Congolese people about adding to the Congolese, national wealth. But if you look at the history of the Congo right from the time when it was the property of king Leopold than a Belgian colony and then in the post, colonial period, it really is a story of exploitation where these kind of minerals wealth rubber before that pours out of this vast country. But almost everybody in the country is left impoverished. Thank you very

Coming up next