The Democratic Republic of Congo at the Razor’s Edge

Tensions already running high in the Democratic Republic of Congo are now resulting in the deaths of peaceful protesters.

President Joseph Kabila is attempting to remain in office beyond his two-term constitutional mandate, which expires December 19th of this year. In response, opposition parties, youth advocating for democratic reforms, and other groups across the DRC came together and organized peaceful protests.  The accompanying images show the government’s response.

The crisis heated up over the weekend. On Saturday, the independent elections commission (CENI) formally requested a delay of the presidential vote previously scheduled for November of this year.

In anticipation of this announcement, a National Dialogue Kabila proposed was put on hold. At best, the Dialogue was seen as another delaying tactic but now many parties are refusing to participate amid a flurry of political arrests by the government. In fact, U.S. Envoy to the Great Lakes Region, Tom Perriello sent the following tweet in response to the Kabila government’s actions:

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Perriello found himself the target of the political tensions yesterday as he was boarding a flight from Ndjili International Airport in Kinshasa as he was angrily confronted by a Congolese MP and member of Joseph Kabila’s ruling party. According to Adrien Seyes of Afrik.com, the incident was very contentious and on verge of becoming a physical altercation according to witnesses. The US Embassy in Kinshasa condemned the harassment, and has continued to push for the protection of political rights and non-violence in the Congo and put out the following tweet in response:us-embassy-on-perriello

Today, protestors gathered across the country, peacefully protesting against Kabila’s attempt to remain in power. The peaceful actions of protestors were met by gunshots and tear gas fired by police. Reports indicate that nearly 20 people have been killed by the violence along with countless injuries. Amongst the injured was Martin Fayulu, chairman of an opposition party who coincidentally, had been wrongfully arrested and detained by Kabila’s forces earlier this year.

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Images of the protests and fallout from police actions against the protests Monday are included below. Though there are many other photos from Monday’s events, we have not included pictures of those murdered by President Kabila’s security apparatus out of respect for the fallen. Continue reading “The Democratic Republic of Congo at the Razor’s Edge”

Kerry Provides Money and Moral Support for Democracy in Africa

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest trip to Africa is serving to underscore democracy’s critical role in fighting terror and promoting the long-term stability on the continent.

Kerry announced this week the United States is investing over $25 million to ensure a smooth presidential election process next year in Kenya. His use of the word “investing” was almost certainly deliberate. It signals the United States has a stake in the successful evolution of African democracy over the long term. In business parlance, the U.S. wants a return on its investment. On a practical level, an increasingly stable and secure Kenya, a nation of 50 million people, should serve to strengthen the fragile democracies in neighboring countries.

To Kenya’s south, voters are heading to the polls this weekend in Tanzania. While the ruling CCM party has dominated the country for the 54 years of its independence, current president, Jakaya Kikwete, is honoring constitutional term limits, following his second five-year term. Voters are increasingly impatient with sluggish progress on economic development under the CCM and contested election results could test the country’s overall stability. Continue reading “Kerry Provides Money and Moral Support for Democracy in Africa”

Sanctions are Starting to Work in the DRC and Must be Expanded

When it comes to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the United States has an urgent and stark choice. The U.S. can expand the use of targeted sanctions and other financial pressure to help facilitate the Constitutional conclusion of the failed presidency of Joseph Kabila. Or it can maintain the status quo and risk this nation of 80 million people descending into chaos and violence.

Kabila took the reins in the DRC upon the assassination of his father, Laurent Kabila.  In 2006, Joseph Kabila was elected to his first full term as President in balloting deemed reasonably free and fair by the international community. However, his reelection in 2011 was largely regarded as fraudulent and illegitimate. Under the Congolese Constitution, Kabila must leave office on December 19, 2016, but over the last 20 months he has engaged in a series of duplicitous and deadly maneuvers to avoid this reality and attempt to hold onto power past his constitutional mandate.

Continue reading “Sanctions are Starting to Work in the DRC and Must be Expanded”

Kofi Annan’s Tour de Force for Democracy

It is worth reading some insights on the connection between democracy and tangible improvement in daily life from one of Africa’s most esteemed elder statesmen, former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.

In a recent speech in his native Ghana, Annan said the integrity of elections holds the prospects for rapid economic growth and prosperity. He urged political leaders and others to uphold the democratic tenets of inclusion, integrity and courage that foster a peaceful society.

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Foreign Policy Experts Tell Senators That Sanctions Work

Sanctions have long been a favorite policy tool for the United States and other countries for thwarting human rights abuses, drug trafficking and terrorist activities. Experts say sanctions’ effectiveness on some of the more nefarious regimes in sub-Sahara Africa depends on whether they are targeted, timely and complement broader multilateral efforts.

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Free and Fair Elections at Risk in The Gambia

Rare is the reformer who stays in power for 20 years or more. Generally, the longer a political leader’s tenure, the more likely that repression replaces reform. The veneer of democracy wears thin in time and eventually disappears altogether. Popular restlessness for a better life is cast as a threat to national security and enforcing the unhappy status quo becomes the chief occupation of the ruler. The latest example of this phenomenon is in The Gambia under President Yahya Jammeh.

Continue reading “Free and Fair Elections at Risk in The Gambia”