In Congo election, outcome is all but certain and violence is likely
President Joseph Kabila is expected to win an election that is widely seen as rigged. With his security forces cracking down and his chief rival calling for revolt, the scene is set for bloodshed.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo’s second stab at democracy since the end of a ruinous civil war, President Joseph Kabila is likely to cling to power. But Monday’s election is already so flawed that the result will probably be contested, and the odds of violence or even a return to war are high, analysts and human rights activists warn.
After the last poll in 2006, security forces killed hundreds of opposition protesters in the capital, Kinshasa. And that was when Kabila was still popular.
Now that he is no longer a public favorite — having failed to improve the lives of his desperately poor population even though Congo has some of the richest mineral resources on Earth — Kabila has checked off every box in the autocrat’s handbook to fix the election.
The scene is set for bloodshed. One of Kabila’s aides has referred to critics of the regime as mosquitoes requiring insecticide, according to Human Rights Watch. Security forces have attacked opposition supporters for wearing political T-shirts, and pro-Kabila thugs firebombed the main opposition party’s headquarters. On Saturday, rival factions hurled rocks at each other, gunfire was heard across Kinshasa, and two people were killed in pre-vote clashes.
Deprived of any fair chance of a victory and incapable of uniting with other groups opposed to Kabila, the main opposition presidential candidate, Etienne Tshisekedi of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress party, already has declared himself the true president and for months has been urging supporters to prepare for an “Arab Spring”-styled revolt.