An ongoing issue plaguing citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, also referred to as the DRC, is their corrupt and unjust political situation. Elections were scheduled to be held in 2016, but the country’s president, Joseph Kabila, refused to step down from power. Kabila has been in power for two terms (since 2001), which is the maximum amount of time one may remain president as outlined in the DRC’s constitution. Protests occurred in 2016 throughout the country because of this injustice, which resulted in 17 people being killed.
Elections in the DRC are much less official and organized than those we experience in Canada. In 2011, when Kabila was re-elected for his second term, almost 2,000 polling stations’ results were somehow lost and omitted from the final tally. These stations were in areas where support was strong for Kabila’s rival in the election, Etienne Tshisekedi. This undeniably put into question the credibility of the election, and the DRC citizens protested at this injustice to no avail, resulting in more civilian casualties.
Elections are scheduled to take place in early 2018, but is uncertain as to whether Kabila will once again postpone them to remain in power or whether a much-needed change in leadership will occur. American United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley has stated that “we need free and fair elections to happen in 2018 at the latest, and not the end of 2018 — we need to have them sooner”. Kabila’s government has been accused of attempting to postpone the elections to buy time and alter the constitution and implement longer term limits so he can remain as president.
We are very fortunate in Canada to have a fair and creditable electoral process. This is a privilege that students and all people within the DRC do not have. Political unrest and continuing violent protests undoubtedly contribute to the challenges students and young people face in the country. The Nyantende Foundation aims to alleviate some of these challenges by creating safe spaces where students have the ability to learn about the world around them and become educated citizens, and hopefully break the pattern of corruption within the country.