Rival contenders compete for placement ahead of upcoming DRC election.

In three weeks, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the fourth most populated country in Africa and abundant in minerals, will hold elections. This takes place amidst an ongoing civil war, the departure of two international peacekeeping forces, and the withdrawal of an EU electoral observers’ mission due to the government’s denial of their use of satellite phones.

In a nation known for having fraudulent elections, the possibility of stopping current president Félix Tshisekedi from obtaining a second term relies on the opposition’s ability to come together and support one trustworthy candidate.

There are a total of 24 individuals vying for candidacy, among them are Denis Mukwege, a gynecologist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient; Floribert Anzuluni, a former banker now working as a grassroots activist; Aggrey Ngalasi, a pastor; Moïse Katumbi, who was prevented from running in the 2018 elections by being barred from the country; and Martin Fayulu, a former oil executive who many believe had the presidency stolen from him in 2018.

Marie-Josée Ifoku is the only female candidate in the contest, and like most of the other candidates, she pledges to address the issue of a corrupt government. The corruption involving diamonds in the Democratic Republic of Congo has now extended to lithium and cobalt, which are crucial minerals for the advancement of green energy.

The current political system, in which only one candidate can win, heavily benefits the current leader due to a disorganized opposition. Anzuluni believes that 15 of the candidates were essentially chosen by the ruling government. He stated that the opposition must come together in a united coalition, but it is necessary for the coalition to have shared values and a common political agenda that addresses the issue of politicians using their positions for personal gain. Discussions with civil society have revealed that security is the primary concern for voters.

In the middle of November, discussions took place in Pretoria among a selection of top contenders to determine if they could unite behind one candidate, but currently there is no agreement.

The possibility of a fair and legal poll on December 20th was further threatened when the EU decided to remove their team of 42 electoral experts. This team, led by Swedish MEP Malin Björk, had planned to bring their own communication devices and phones, but the government claimed this violated a protocol.

Six prominent opposition candidates had expressed concerns regarding the close relationship between the independent national electoral commission and Tshisekedi. They also raised issues with delays in releasing voter rolls, numerous faulty identification cards, and insufficient police protection for their campaign activities.

The committee is dedicated to releasing the vote outcomes, broken down by each individual polling location. This will aid party representatives and an actively involved Catholic church in overseeing the counting procedure.

Voters have good reasons to be suspicious. In the 2018 elections, an enthusiastic civil society seemed to have grabbed a chance to end the corruption by overwhelmingly rejecting the former president Joseph Kabila’s handpicked successor, Tshisekedi, and instead backing Fayulu.

Despite initial negotiations with Kabila, Tshisekedi ultimately emerged as the victor. Fayalu’s attempts to contest the outcome were unsuccessful.

The current presidential and local elections occur amidst increased conflict in the eastern part of the nation, concerning reports of exploitation in valuable copper and cobalt mines, and the upcoming withdrawal of two peacekeeping groups – the 15,000-member UN peacekeeping mission Monuscu and a seven-country East African Community force.

The EAC’s mandate is set to end on Friday, just one year after the arrival of their first military intervention, which could create a dangerous security gap. The initial Kenyan troops in the EAC mission departed from Goma over the weekend. Monuscu’s departure is scheduled for early 2024.

Tshisekedi expressed dissatisfaction with the EAC for not fulfilling its duty to pressure armed groups in the eastern region, including the March 23 group, to disarm. The DRC believes that Rwanda is providing financial and military support to the M23. Human Rights Watch has accused the M23 of committing multiple war crimes and has urged for the group and any supporters in Rwanda to be added to a UN sanctions list.

Fayalu and Katumbi appear to be attracting the most attention among the candidates, but it is uncertain if they will be permitted to secure victory or if the elections will proceed as planned.

Source: theguardian.com

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