Now that the planning for a general election is underway-albeit being postponed to 30th December, the big question remains: How prepared is the country for the big move?
Earlier this year, president Kabila announced, he was not running for another and was paving way for fresh general and presidential election on 23rd December 2018. The announcement cleared months of speculation on whether he is going to run, having over stayed his tenure by 2 years. There were rampant protests and demonstration by the Congolese, who kept demanding he steps down and paves way for free and fair elections.
First off,CENI (Independent National Electoral Commission) extended the election from 23rd to 30th December. Had it taken place- successfully, it would make history as the first peaceful transition of power in Congo since their independence from Belgium 48 years ago.
Just 10 days before election day, fire gutted a warehouse destroying over 8000 computers which were supposed to aid the election process. Yet even as that is the issue, Congolese generally distrusted them, seeing it a mechanism with which the government was going to use in rigging in favor of the ruling party candidate Emanuel Shadary.
By the end of Friday, almost half (estimated) of all the 46 million registered voters were not aware of their polling stations as the voter registers were still not availed. This means that it did not matter that people registered if they have no polling station assigned Can they guarantee that the machines will work? It seems too as if the process to ensure polling agents are assigned to different zones in the huge DRC is far from complete
There has been heavy speculation that president kabila, who has been in power for the last 17 years is handing over the presidency but not his powers? How substantial is this? He appointed Emmanuel Chadary, his former interior minister, who is considered very unpopular, in the country, but has been with the president for 16 years. This as speculators put it, is a move by president Kabila to keep an eye on who is going to take over from him
The country’s infrastructure, especially roads is in a poor state. Sadly for the country, the terrain in the heavily forested country makes it hard to access. Yet even as that is the case, the Congolese government rejected international funding as well as resources like helicopters offered by MONUSCO (The United Nation Stabilization Mission in Congo), to deliver the voting equipment to the hard to reach areas of the country. The government refereed to it as interference from the outside.
The constant unrest in the country has left many Congolese voters displaced both internally and externally. Sadly, there is no mechanism set to ensure that the nationals get to vote especially those outside of the country.
World health organization recently declared the current Ebola outbreak in the eastern region of Congo as the 2nd worst in the world. According to Reuters report, Ebola is believed to have killed 245 people in North Kivu and Ituri provinces. Medical response has been hampered by rebel attacks that has seen several probable Ebola patients displaced, as well as attacks on the Ebola response teams.
With that and more, what remains to be seen is if the aptly named Democratic Republic of Congo lives up to its name and for the first time attains a democratically elected president come December 30th 2018.