After a twelve year hibernation, democracy may have finally awakened in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On December 30th 2018 the Congolese populous finally went to the ballot box to decide on the next president of the DRC.
This marks a spectacular win for democracy. Current President Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001, had delayed the originally scheduled election from 2016 and launched a campaign to allow himself to serve more than the two terms allowed by the constitution. Pressure from other African nations crumbled Kabila’s challenge and the elections have proceeded without his name on the ballot. Regardless of the outcome of the vote, for the first time in over a decade, Joseph Kabila will no longer be in direct control of the the future of the DRC.
A democratic victory is not yet certain. Kabila has tapped Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary as his replacement. If elected, Shandary may serve as a temporary replacement for Kabila. Several comments made to reporters before the election suggest Kabila may simply wait and run again in the 2023 election.
The election itself also presents increasing danger. The results of the election were due to be announced earlier this week on sunday January 3rd, but have been delayed. The electoral commision cites millions of uncounted votes. The Church, which sent out 40 000 observers, claims to know the victor, but cannot publicly announce it as this violates election law. It is unknown when the final results will be released. The delay is becoming increasingly dangerous as public fears over election meddling could lead to violent protests like the ones that resulted in the deaths of 17 people when the election was rescheduled back in 2016. The US has already sent troops to border areas with Gambon to prevent the spread of potential violence.
Despite these fears, the Church's election observers and international pressure may be enough to force the first peaceful transition of power in the history of the DRC. A new president could promise a new future for the DRC. Corruption currently squirrels away much of the funds that could help to protect and educate the nation, including the children of Nyentende.
Sitting Pretty: President Joseph Kabila is not on the ballot on December 23rd. But he may continue to call the shots. (2018, December 15). The Economist.
Mutasa, H. (2019, January 07). DRC election result delayed as half the votes remain uncounted. Al Jazeera. Retrieved January 07, 2019
DR Congo on edge as presidential election results delayed. (2019, January 06). Al Jazeera.
McKenzie, D., Gigova, R., & Sterling, J. (2019, September 20). 17 killed in Congo protests spurred by election tensions. CNN. Retrieved January 07, 2019.