By David Greenwald
Less than two weeks ago, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and saw both the challenges and the opportunities that this nation at the heart of Africa presents to the US. She met with the head of the independent election commission, CENI, and came to understand the many challenges that influence the country’s ability to hold a free and fair election that is available to all citizens. Upon the release of the December 23, 2018 election date, Haley pledged to work closely with the DRC on this national ballot.
The DRC is Africa’s second largest country, with limited infrastructure. Literacy rates are low, yet the next election will include tens of thousands of candidates. It’s important to know that not only will a president be elected, but also local elections for parliament and all the provinces. The ballot for these myriad candidates will be computerized, a difficult and time consuming process that will take months. The computer terminals must then be distributed across the second largest country (in land area) in Africa, with a combined size greater than that of Spain, France, Germany, Sweden, and Norway, but with an extremely limited transportation network. It is a massive undertaking.
As experience in other African countries has illustrated, elections that are disorganized or untrustworthy bring chaos, violence, and death. Recent Kenyan elections, which were overseen by a host of international officials (including John Kerry) were discredited, and that led the Supreme Court of Kenya to invalidate the results and call a new ballot. And even that ballot was contested, which has resulted in numerous riot deaths. After months of unrest and uncertainty, Kenya still does not have a ratified new leader and violence is endemic.
The situation is much worse in the DRC, and Kenya’s experience is the explosive possibility that Congolese leaders are working to avoid. Therefore, they turned over the election process to an independent commission with great expertise, experience, and international credibility. Nikki Haley recognized the work of this commission, and that the opposition calls for a ballot before the end of 2017 were simply impossible, inevitably leading to an election fiasco worse than Kenya’s. Her belief that elections should be held before the end of 2018 remains the best opportunity that the Congolese people have for a smooth and stable transition, which can only result from a free and fair election open to all citizens.
Indeed, the Chairperson of the African Union, Moussa Faki Mahamat, has praised the work of the independent CENI commission in developing this comprehensive and attainable election timeline leading to the December 23, 2018 date. And the African Union through its member states has pledged logistical, technical, and financial support for this election.
The effort to delegitimize the current administration of the DRC by some opposition members violates the Congolese constitution, which clearly and simply states that the incumbent president will continue to serve until the newly elected president assumes office. This is not a surprise to some opposition leaders, who know it very well. Of course, the primary opposition in the DRC doesn’t care; it simply wants power.
The primary opposition leader, Moise Katumbi, has already called for a coup through strikes and violence. In a recent tweet, he said (translated): “This predatory régime wants to prolong population misery and instability. We will not accept this fantasy calendar. Stop. Kabila has to go.” In another tweet, opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi called for ignoring CENI through a coup (translated): “Never mind CENI, it's calendar will signal the end of this evil regime. Get ready Congolese, time has come to kick out Kabila.” And opposition political party head Eve Bazaiba threatened the head of the CENI commission (translated): “(Commission head) Nangaa, you and your masters, are playing with fire! Your children will have difficulties carrying your names. You are defying the Congolese people.” Could it be any clearer why free, fair and open elections are so important to the future of the Democratic Republic of the Congo?
This week, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will take up this matter with a one-sided hearing on November 9th. Alarmingly and in the face of so much evidence, this committee of the US Congress continues to push for an arbitrary election date, rather than a well-organized and fair election open to all. Panelists invited to speak at this hearing have made overt calls for violence and a coup. Several them receive funds from the Soros network, and act in concert with the Soros backed Commissionaire of the UN Human Rights Council, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein of Jordan, who has repeatedly proved his lack of credibility.
With regards to the matter of elections in the DRC, the position of the US Government has been set by Ambassador Haley, and it is that elections should be held before the end of 2018. Yet the panel for this hearing has been stacked with apologists for DRC’s violent opposition, which renders it without value in spurring a real conversation about the US-DRC relationship. In a memo released Monday, the dissident LUCHA organization called for a people’s uprising against the government, while it’s representative, Fred Bauma, is scheduled to speak at this hearing. His organization’s statements are inconsistent with the stated goal of resolving the political crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This goal will not be accomplished by coup, violence, civil unrest, or other forms of mob rule to benefit a corrupt opposition.
Those who have taken the time to understand the complexities of the next national election in the DRC have become proponents of the independent CENI commission plan. The components of the political opposition which calls for revolution and violence to serve their own objectives, simply do not have the interests of either the Democratic Republic of the Congo or the United States at heart. It’s time to join with Ambassador Haley and the African Union in recognizing that a free fair and open election is the only path forward for a stronger US-DRC partnership and the best benefit of the Congolese people.