Congo has to take the lead in November elections, says Crisis Group’s Délétroz
Anger and consternation dominated the feelings amongst Congolese pro-democracy activists at a meeting with representatives from the French foreign ministry in Paris on Monday. During discussions about the Democratic Republic of Congo’s 28th November polls, three themed round tables focused on the electoral process, security, justice and impunity. There are worries that the government is not ready to improve on 2006’s dismal voting conditions, and many Congolese are unhappy with French support for elections that they already see as flawed.
Interview: Alain Délétroz, Vice President, International Crisis Group
“Some of the people represented in this room are very upset with the whole process. They’re upset also that the international community, particularly France here, is funding an electoral process that they see as completely biased and not transparent.
Could there be a situation like in Cote d’Ivoire with acceptance of the result?
I think the picture today looks very much like this. Because all the instruments that should be in place by now – to ensure some transparency of the process, or at least a level of confidence by all the political parties and citizens of Congo, that the process has been run more or less legally and right – are not in place. So when you have something like that going on there are a lot of suspicions in the opposition that the president/government will try to cheat. And they have to deal with this suspicion by hurrying up the setting up of all the different institutions we’ve been speaking about. Particularly with the national electoral commission, they have to make sure that the president of this commission is not someone seen to be too close to President Kabila, which is the case right now.
A few months ago there was an attack on the presidential residency. Are the fears of more violence?
Well, I don’t know whether they’ll be more violence. But I think the level of violence now is pretty high. An attack against the president’s residence in Kinshasa – this is not a small thing. An attack on the capital city of the province of Equateur, which is not a small city. So all these, plus, the eastern Congo, which has always been, unfortunately, since the war, in a situation of war and peace. So now what I fear is that at the end of the day after the elections a large part of the population, mainly in Kinshasa, would not accept the vote. They would have the feeling that they have been cheated and would go out on the streets to demonstrate with possible violence. This is something I would fear right now because the process is being poorly dealt with.
The French representative for the foreign ministry discussed three different areas that France was willing to help support: the electoral process, policing and the media. What are your concerns in these areas?
For the media the immediate emergency is to set up the national council for the media. As an institution that should be ensuring freedom of the press across the national territory of the Congo. Why is it that this council has not been set up yet? Also it will be very important, you heard several journalists in the room, insisting on a necessity not to have, in this instance, journalists who would be seen, and I’m quoting them, ‘as clones of the government’. I think for the rest, what the French representative said, is pretty much in line with some of our main recommendations. In terms of, for government which is funding this process, making sure that the process comes as close as possible to democratic standards.
In a country with so much potential, why is it so hard to get things right?
I think it is very disappointing that after all the support that the present government got from the international community. Particularly European taxpayers, from the European Union and its member states, it is very disappointing to see that at the end of its mandate, the situation in terms of having a state being run properly, it’s still the picture we see today. This is why in my presentation, I insisted on the fact, I believe taxpayers in Europe will end up tired with seeing big sums of money going out to fund processes like this, if the local political elite can’t take fate into its hands. And you cannot escape this feeling of frustration when you see what is going on now. I do hope that political leaders from our countries, from the European Union, bring this message loudly and clearly to Mr Kabila.
MONUSCO (United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) itself is one of the most expensive peacekeeping forces in the world. What do you think about their ongoing mandate in the DRC?
I think it is still a necessity. It’s not a brilliant necessity. But it is a necessity for the stability of Congo. Their mandate in my view is the right interpretation. What the mission on the ground is doing, its mandate, is somewhat more questionable. Right now for instance MONUSCO should have very thorough discussion with the government on all these issues, particularly the security for the vote in Kinshasa. Who is there to prevent this possible violence what we’ve been talking about? But also we think it would be good if the United Nations would set up a high level panel of independent personalities, respected across Africa, who would come in to monitor the process of setting up the elections. We cannot go back to a situation like in 2006 where basically the international community’s leading the process. This time Congo and its government have to lead the process. Because it’s going so poorly the UN should set up an ad-hoc panel that could help MONUSCO, in a way monitor the political output of MONUSCO.”