One day after the presidential elections in DR Congo and voices have risen already to denounce the fraud and irregularities observed in voting centres throughout the country. International observers, opposition parties, members of civil society, all agree that there was disorganization and haste in the organization of these elections. However, there is another fact to be emphasized here: it is the recrudescence of violence and the rise to the surface of certain armed groups, which attacked several polling stations as well as military positions of the governmental army on Monday. It is worrying that these armed groups chose the day of voting to launch their attacks and make their voices heard through violence.
To avoid the case of Ivory Coast
On Monday many people feared that the same situation as in Ivory Coast would come to pass in Congo immediately after the elections. “People should learn from the past”, a 70 year old teacher told me yesterday. The scene is gradually being set and all the actors are arranged for a disputed election, or ‘one election with two winners’ as was the case in Ivory Coast. Yet the wish of the war-weary population, and my wish as a peacebuilder, is to see all the world placing the interests of the population at the centre of our priorities and the peaceful resolution of any disputes arising from the elections.
Violence on polling day
The Congolese people fear that these elections offer an opportunity for secessionist groups to use them as a tool to perpetuate lucrative cycles of violence and war. In Masisi, in Fizi and Lubumbashi armed groups have made themselves heard by attacking polling stations and army positions. It is not known exactly who these groups were, or what their political links may be with local militia on the ground. Combatants held captive in Lubumbashi reportedly say their aim is to ‘free’ the province on Katanga, raising fears that these militants harbour secessionist aims. The wish of the population as a whole is to see these groups returning to reason and putting down their weapons for the higher interest of the population.
Our role as peacebuilders is to sound the alarm so that the international community, international organizations, civil society and any person of good will can bring what pressure they can to bear, and help this young democracy to cut a path towards democratic maturity.
Act to save the electoral process
Peacebuilders across the country think that it is both necessary and possible to act to prevent this country from returning to a situation of violence and war. They say it is not yet too late to save this process, especially while the results are not yet known. They have launched an urgent call towards the international community to take preventive measures to avoid a resurgence of violence.
Pressure should be exercised on presidential majority parties and opposition parties alike to preach messages of peace, and to embargo their partisans from going down into the streets to cause disorder and violence. Indeed, it is time for all to show their maturity and prove to the world that the DR Congo has institutions of justice that all can trust, and a fair and accountable process to deal with complaints resulting from the elections.
We appeal to all parties to put aside any egoistic dividend and consider first the interests of the Congolese people.
Flory is DR Congo local correspondent for Insight on Conflict, an online resource profiling peacebuilding organisations and from-the-field reports.