Voting is under way across the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the country’s second elections since independence in 1960.
The campaign period has been characterised by tension and violent unrest. Several people have been killed in the last week, including a local member of parliament.
In the southern city of Lubumbashi, a military ammunition warehouse was broken into and set on fire at the weekend. This morning, vehicles carrying ballot papers were also targeted. Alain Mwaku, Senior Communications Officer for World Vision, said: “The vehicles were set ablaze by arsonists. I saw ballot papers burning.”
The election process is a logistical challenge because the DRC is the size of Western Europe and the largest country in Sub-Saharan Africa, with no effective road network. Ballot papers are 56 pages long because of the high number of parliamentary candidates.
World Vision DRC’s National Director, Bob Kisyula, has described the current elections as a defining moment for a great nation that has not known peace for a long time.
He said: “Being the second democratic elections after the first one in 2006, its success or failure is seen as the one single event that will determine the future of DR Congo. Its success will position this country into a projectile of recovery from the many years of war and poor governance.”
The campaign period wound up on Friday with cancellation of four planned political rallies for the main presidential candidates in Kinshasa to avert possible conflict, as they were to be held on the same day and in close proximity.
5.4million Congolese died of war-related causes in the nine years up to 2007 – more than half the population of Greater London. Nearly half of those who continue to die in this humanitarian crisis are aged five or under.
Mathew Neville, Director of Public Engagement for World Vision UK, said: “During a visit to eastern DRC this year, I was overwhelmed by the sense of hope in the country.
“The government that emerges from this process, of whatever political make-up, must be legitimate for that hope to come to fruition. Otherwise, progress towards reducing child deaths will remain under threat.”
* Read a World Vision worker’s insight into DRC elections at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/expatlife/8912236/The-chance-to-vote-means-everything-in-the-Congo.html
28 November 2011