Sunday, 11 September 2011

Pre-election violence in Kinshasa: a hint of what’s to come

Dead soldier, Kinshasa, March 2007 @Getty Images
Pre- and post-election violence is to be expected in Kinshasa because insufficient effort has been made at trying to restore people’s faith in government or in improving their well-being. The government’s main objective in the past five years has been regime consolidation and personal enrichment, abetted by Congo’s compliant international partners.

Factional violence shook Kinshasa last week just hours after Etienne Tshisekedi officially entered the race for the country’s highest office by registering with the CENI.

UDPS headquarters was vandalized and the studios of a radio and television station close to the opposition - Radio Lisanga - were set ablaze on 5 September. A PPRD office was also destroyed. The next day police broke up a UDPS demonstration, killing one and wounding at least two others. The following night, the Congo Embassy in Paris was attacked with Molotov cocktails by unidentified assailants. Pursuing opposition politics abroad is an indicator of political repression back home.

Governor of the Kinshasa ville-province, André Kimbuta (whose son Gaylord Kimbuta was murdered in Belgium earlier this year) temporarily banned political demonstrations. UDPS and PPRD activists declared they would respect the ban. Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo spoke out, appealing for calm. UDPS has been demonstration in front of the CENI offices demanding access to their computer files to ensure transparency in the registration and voting procresses.

These flare ups are harbingers of what will come following elections. Results will be contested by the runner up with a possible Côte d’Ivoire style stalemate. The type of violence that resulted in hundreds of deaths in March 2007 when overzealous troops loyal to Kabila clashed with Bemba militiamen in Kinshasa won’t surprise anyone. Capturing power is one thing, but transforming it into a social agenda is something else.

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