Sunday, November 27, 2011

How Rwanda affects DRC's 2011 Elections.

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In Goma, the capital of eastern Congo, there is excitement about the upcoming presidential elections but not as much. People here are tired of politicians making the same promises only to renege on them. It is the futility of Congo's politics and the people are not determined to change it. On the contrary, they are quite worn out. 

While the security situation has improved a lot, the grinding poverty has remained and the government has done little to alleviate it. Back in 2005 elections, people in eastern DRC voted massively for Joseph Kabila. They did so because of the pressing need for peace and stability at the time.

But the mood has swung. At the moment, there is huge support for Vital Kamerhe. Vital is the former speaker of parliament and a member of the Shi ethnic group of South Kivu. In the past, Vital has been a supporter of Joseph Kabila. This suddenly changed in 2009, when he was forced to resign his post as speaker of the house, after opposing Kabila's decision to allow Rwandan troops into DRC's territory. This bold stand actually earned him a lot more admirers in eastern DRC.

Campaigns for parliamentary seats have been more heated. This is not in vain as the average Congolese MP earns about $6,000-- a substantial amount in a very impoverished country. I am told that political aspirants for parliamentary seats have been doing rounds of "night campaigns" in Rwanda. While it might seem to be the wrong place to campaign, many Rwandans hold DRC's electoral cards. As a result, there is quite a substantial number of votes among Rwandans who live close to the DRC's borders. A certain Emmanuel Kamanzi, contesting for a seat in Goma, has been the most visible in Rwanda. He has also offered cash in exchange of votes.

Otherwise, the security situation remains the same. In the past three months, Rwanda has dramatically increased troops on its streets. However, this is more likely to do with perceived threats from Kayumba Nyamwasa's faction and less to do with DRC's elections. Otherwise, life is said to continue as normal. It is expected that the borders will be closed on Monday. There is not that much fear of a new wave of violence. Let us hope for the best!

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