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DRC Analysts Fear Election Outcome

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VOA News - October 27, 2006

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The large United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo has presented Sunday's run-off presidential election as a major historical breakthrough. But analysts still fear the outcome of the election.

The UN has tried to help keep the peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo
The UN has tried to help keep the peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo
An analyst with the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, Jason Stearns, says the crucial DRC election could become a winner-takes-all affair, an election that does not leave any role for the minority party in the parliament.

"The danger is that the election will turn into a winner-takes-all affair where the winner of the presidential elections not only wins the presidential election," said Mr. Stearns.  "As events in parliament - there is a newly-elected parliament - have shown is that the majority in parliament does not want to give any guarantees to the minority in parliament.  So in most parliaments, you have guarantees in the minority that they have positions in key commissions, auditing bodies and so on, until now in parliament it seems like the majority wants to dominate everything, leaving the political opposition without any rights, without a leg really to stand on."

Bemba's guard stand next to downed helicopter
Bemba's guard stand next to a downed helicopter
Both candidates, President Joseph Kabila and Vice President and former rebel Jean-Pierre Bemba, still rely on large private security guards that are not integrated into the army.

After first round results were announced in August, supporters of the two candidates clashed, leaving dozens dead in Kinshasa.  A small European rapid reaction force helped the large but overextended U.N. peacekeeping mission stop the fighting.

A Congolese analyst, Mbwebwe Kabamba, fears that with the stakes much higher now, second round results could lead to renewed civil strife.

"We have many elements now showing pretty well that we are about to have a civil war," he said.  "We have two belligerents, we have President Kabila and his own army, we have Jean-Pierre Bemba, who also has his own army.  We somehow thought that those people would merge their armies, for an integrated army, but unfortunately at the end of the transition period, we realize that they still have their militiamen, so being in touch with one group and the other, no one is ready to accept their failure at the end of this process."

Kabamba is not encouraged by the fact that voting in the first round was split along geographic lines, and that in the run-up to the second round, campaigners from the west had problems coming to the east, and vice-versa.

"Some conflictual [militant] aspects we saw in the DRC we saw during the campaign, what I consider myself to be the tip of the iceberg, because there are many, many problems between the west and the east, and it is likely to break up in a war," he added.

Mr. Kabila has refused to sign an agreement guaranteeing security for the loser of the election.

Jean-Pierre Bemba
Jean-Pierre Bemba
His opponent, Vice President Bemba, was asked what he would do if his forces were attacked.

"I will defend myself, I will defend my family," said Mr. Bemba.  "With what, with angels? When you are attacked with guns and ammunition, how do you respond?"

Neither candidate has taken to the campaign trail, citing security concerns.  Vice President Bemba has said that if he loses in a transparent election, he will go into peaceful opposition.

But Mr. Kabila has not said anything.  The son of the country's former leader, Laurent Desire Kabila, who was assassinated in 2001, has kept busy building alliances with major political parties. There are also reports his presidential guard has been receiving new shipments of weapons.


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