Painting by Cheri Samba

Lokuta eyaka na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier mpe ekomi. Lies come up in the elevator; the truth takes the stairs but gets here eventually. - Koffi Olomide

Ésthetique eboma vélo. Aesthetics will kill a bicycle. - Felix Wazekwa

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The day(s) after: Reflection on elections

Elections have passed throughout most of the Congo - voters are now suspended in a weird limbo of several weeks as they wait for election results to be announced. Sitting in bars and living rooms, people in Bukavu send and receive dozens of text messages a day regarding the results seen outside voting offices and compilation centers - "Vital is ahead in 8 out of 32 centers in Goma!" "Tshisekedi takes a surprising lead in Beni territory!"

I won't delve into too much speculation about the result yet. It is too early to do so; results just began trickling into the central compilation centers in Kinshasa yesterday. It looks like Tshisekedi did well, and that the race will be close, but beyond scattered results here and there, there is more speculation than anything else.

So how did the voting go? The election was Janus-faced. On one hand, it was peaceful in most of the country, with what appeared to be relatively high turnout. I would wager than in 70-80% of polling stations, the elections went fairly well, even in many parts of Kinshasa. People I spoke with in Bukavu - and echoed by what my colleagues heard elsewhere in the country - were enthusiastic and highly motivated. I saw women queuing for hours in the sun with their infants, old men who had hobbled on their canes for miles to come to voting stations. Moving stuff.

The other face of the elections was ugly. There were hundreds of cases of election irregularities, many of which could have probably been avoided through more meticulous preparation. The most frequent irregularities, which have been covered extensively in the press, are the following:
  • Many voters could not find their names on the polling stations, due to flaws in the electoral lists and misunderstandings about where they should vote. Although the election commission announced repeatedly that people could vote anywhere in their electoral district with a valid ID card, many voters were sent home or sent from station to station. This probably disenfranchised tens of thousands of voters (out of 30 million);
  • There were many dozens accusations of ballot-stuffing across the country. Some of these incidents can be explained by misunderstandings as ballots ran out and new ballots had to be dispatched, leading some to think these ballots were for stuffing. In other cases, however, there seems to be little doubt that there was rigging, as marked ballots were found before polling began, in many cases outside of the chain of custody of the polling commission. In other cases, stuffing happened in front of witnesses. The arrival of 10 tons of ballots from South Africa in Lubumbashi and Kinshasa, which were then unloaded by military police, one day after elections had closed in most of the country did not help matter. It is unclear how many votes these kinds of irregularities might concern;
  • Frustrated voters attacked polling stations in many parts of the country, burning down dozens of stations in Kasai Occidental alone (reported 143 were either forced to close or burned down there). The frustrations stemmed from accusations of ballot-stuffing, long delays and incomplete lists. Some estimates suggest than hundreds of thousands of people were not able to vote, but it is very difficult to pin numbers to these allegations for now;
  • In some areas, security forces interfered in the electoral process. In Kinshasa, the army took over security for polling stations from the police in some areas, while in Masisi (North Kivu) ex-CNDP soldiers reportedly forced thousands of voters to vote for their candidates. There were also reports of witnesses of political parties being chased out of polling stations by soldiers or police;
Given these irregularities, the question is: what next? Four presidential candidates - Kamerhe, Kengo, Mbusa and Bombole - are asking for elections to be canceled, but both the main opposition candidate Etienne Tshisekedi and the incumbent Joseph Kabila have said they will respect the results. Some foreign observations missions made statements today, outlining the above irregularities but not making any broader judgments.

The reason that Tshisekedi and Kabila are going ahead with the process is clear: They both think they can win. Obviously, there will only be one president. So one will lose. What will his reaction be? Neither side appears ready to step down without a fight. Key questions for the coming days will be: Did political parties and civil society observers have enough people on the ground to carry out an independent tallying of votes? Will the compilation process - which is already fairly chaotic - be transparent? If Tshisekedi loses, how many people can he mobilize in the streets for how long? If Kabila loses, will he admit defeat or simulate a crisis to prevent a handover of power? In case of a crisis, what position will the army and police take?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Elections update: 10pm (Bukavu)

Voting has wrapped up in many places in the eastern Congo, but continues in some areas and in many places in the West.

Some more information, with the caveat that I have not been able to verify all incidents, so they should be taken a grain of salt.
  • Kinshasa, which has been mostly calm today, saw some problems this evening as Tshisekedi prepared to vote. He was tailed by a crowd of supporters as the police blocked his path several times in Limete as he tried to get to a polling station. According to AFP photographers, police blocked him access to a station later. Apparently he finally voted and returned home;
  • Also in Kinshasa, UDPS supporters clashed with police in Bandal (at the school Joyeux Lutins) after they claimed they weren't able to vote;
  • Across the country, thousands of people couldn't find their names on the voters' lists - the election commission said they could vote anywhere in the electoral district where they registered, but many don't seem to know this and are protesting. This is the situation, for example, in Matete and Kingabwa in Kinshasa;
  • More allegations have surfaced of pre-marked ballots in favor of a presidential candidate, including in Songololo (Bas-Congo) and Idiofa (Bandundu);
  • In North Kivu, an angry crowd destroyed a voting station at Kasindi-Lubiliha, accusing Gen Kakolele (former rebel commander, now close to Kabila) of fraud. Five people have allegedly been arrested;
  • In Mwenga (South Kivu) six polling stations were not able to open on the Itombwe plateau due to Banyamulenge soldiers' interference;
  • The president of the voting station in Kalima (Maniema) was arrested due to fraud, as he was discovered with ballots in his private possession on the evening before the vote;
  • Around 100 voting stations were not able to open in Kasai Occidential, including some 43 that were burned down;
  • In South Kivu, fighting broke out between different ethnic communities in Kalehe as Hutu Kabila supporters clashes with Kamerhe supporters from Shi and Havu communities (not clear when this took place), leaving at least seven people injured;
I just heard that the election commission has now extended voting for one more day.

Elections update: Violence in Lubumbashi and Kananga; irregularities elsewhere

Voting has begun peacefully in much of the country, with high turnout in many areas (including Bukavu, where I am).

However, several serious incidents have been reported. While my sources are reliable (mostly foreign observation missions, journalists and the United Nations), things are developing rapidly and I have not been able to cross-check all of the information below.
  • In Lubumbashi, serious violence has erupted in various areas of town. Opposition supporters denounced the delays in opening polling stations in the Bel-Air neighborhoods where many UDPS supporters live. Road blocks were set up and protests broke out. Some time afterwards, UN reports came in regarding the blowing up of two trucks full of ballot papers that had allegedly already been filled out before voting began. Around the same time, two trucks full of sensitive election materials were set on fire in the Kenya neighborhood of town. All the while, numerous abuses have been reported by election observers in polling stations (no further information available). Armed civilians wearing red bandanas have opened fire on civilians at polling stations at Sapin Cemetary in the Ruashi neighborhood, while armed gunmen stormed another polling station in Bel Air and set it on fire. The MONUSCO staff has been forced to retreat into their compound; there are even reports of mortar fire in town;
  • Election materials arrived late in much of Kinshasa. According to one international source, in Kinshasa IV (where around a quarter of the population lives) the presidential ballot papers had not arrived by noon. Heavy rain has disrupted or slowed down some of the electoral operations in town. Still the situation seems to be relatively calm, with no reports of violence in the capital;
  • In several places around the country there have been reports of ballot papers being found already filled out before the elections began. This was the case in Goma (Himbi or Ndosho neighborhood), where the head of a voting center was attacked (one report has him being arrested) by voters after they found him with a stack of filled out ballots; a similar case occured in Kananga, where a woman is in critical condition - some reports suggest that she was trying to expose the fraudsters when she was attacked, others say she herself was the culprit. In Lubumbashi, Kananga and Mbuji-Mayi there have been similar reports;
  • In Kananga (Kasai Occidental), there have also been numerous violent incidents. Very few voting stations reportedly opened on time, due to the lack of polling materials. Some stations told voters to come back at noon, while in others observers alleged that ballot boxes already had ballots in them before voting began. Several voting stations - including those in religious institutions - have been attacked by "mobs," in some cases these seem to be angry voters throwing stones. Several injuries have been reported and some polling stations are now closed;
  • Irregularities are been reported in too many areas to list here - they include ballot boxes found filled before voting began in Penga Yengo (Kasai-Occidental); voting officials refusing to show witnesses that boxes are empty before voting began (as required by law) in Mbandaka (Equateur); opposition witnesses refused entry in Kananga and Bakwa Kenge (Kasai-Occidental); in Ndesha and Bena Leka (Kasai-Occidental) polling stations burned down;
  • In Luiza (Kasai-Occidental), opposition supporters loyal to Delly Sesanga's Envol party have attacked (not clear how serious) the guest house where election officials were staying, accusing them of fraud;
  • In Masisi (North Kivu), there have been accusations of CNDP soldiers stealing voters card and then voting for them, of soldiers telling people to vote for CNDP candidates, and of blocking the entrance fo non-CNDP witnesses into voting centers;
  • Fears of violence have prompted the European Union to withdraw observers from Mbuji Mayi and MONUSCO from pulling people from Mwene Ditu (Kasai Oriental)
Again, I emphasize that this is a huge country and in other areas voting has been happenin.g peacefully. Nonetheless, this violence and persistent accusations of fraud are very troubling.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Last minute update on elections

I am now in Bukavu, where I will be observing elections. A few rushed updates:
  • The situation in Kinshasa is tense following clashes yesterday between UDPS supporters and the police. Following clashes in the morning, Kinshasa's governor decided to cancel all political rallies in Kinshasa on the last day of the election campaign. The police blocked Tshisekedi from exiting the airport, which provoked clashes with police; at least two people died. This infuriated the UDPS supporters, who claim that Kabila did this on purpose, as he was unlikely to get anywhere close to as many followers at his rally as Tshisekedi. The European Union seemed to agree, condemning the attack on freedom of expression and assembly.
  • Accusations of election irregularities have proliferated over the past days - first, observers noticed that hundreds of polling stations either didn't exist or had been planned without informing the locales. Then, hundreds of thousands of voters in Ituri and Idjwi (South Kivu) discovered that their names were not on the list of voters. Finally, numerous accusations have emerged of ballot having been found with Kabila's name already checked. It is difficult to verify all of the accusations or to know where some or due to disorganization or manipulation.
  • As I write this, some places in South Kivu have not received election materials - according to one report, large parts of Fizi territory had not received election material by this evening. Similar situations may prevail elsewhere, as well.
  • The last several days of campaigning saw huge rallies for Tshisekedi in Bas-Congo, Kananga, Mbuji-Mayi and Bandundu.
More tomorrow,

Monday, November 21, 2011

As election dates approaches, fears of delays grow

A last-minute delay in the election appears to be likely, according to several separate diplomatic sources in Kinshasa. The sources, who wished the remain anonymous given the insistence by the election commission that elections will be held on November 28, said that it would extremely difficult to deploy all necessary materials on time. However, one of the diplomats suggested that the commission thinks it will be less controversial to present the various actors with a fait accompli: a brief delay of the polls.

However, other sources, including the election commission and the UN peacekeeping mission, believe it is still possible to hold elections on time.

The logistical task for the election commission is daunting. The last election materials are reportedly arriving today or tomorrow and have to be distributed to 210 distribution centers. The United Nations has mobilized its substantial fleet of airplanes and helicopters, but the materials will have to be distributed to 64,000 polling centers. In addition, the Congolese government has been able to obtain crucial support from both the Angolan and South African governments, who are deploying aircraft to the country, as well.

If the elections are indeed postponed, it could create unrest, depending on how the UDPS and other opposition parties react to the news. The main opposition party has been adamant that elections be held on schedule and that results be announced by December 6, when Kabila's constitutional mandate expires. However, some UDPS officials have in private suggested that they could accept a very short delay, as long as elections are held by December 6. It is not clear if this view is shared by the entire leadership.

Crucially, on Friday the Comité national de médiation du processus électorale was set up in Kinshasa,  a "group of wise men" that is supposed to mediate in case of electoral unrest. The group is composed of seven Congolese civil society and religious leaders.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Website on Congolese mining

If you want to know more about the complex web of sales, valuations and shell companies that is the Congolese mining sector - the Congo Mines website is the best resource out there. Run by the Carter Center, the website provides a database of news stories, but also contracts and financial payments. It includes over 400 documents on mining in Katanga and is expanding.

Selling the state: Kinshasa loses up to $5,5 billion in assets

The British parliamentarian released a statement yesterday suggesting that the Congo had lost up to $5,5 billion in state assets through the undervaluation of mining concessions. Eric Joyce, who is head of his legislature's Great Lakes working group, backed up his allegation with a raft of documents from the Congo, the British Virgin Islands and the United Kingdom.

Those of you following this blog and the excellent reporting published by Bloomberg (which is quoted here) will not find it surprising that assets have been undervalued. It is the person making the claim, however, that raises eyebrows - as does his direct accusation of Joseph Kabila, the IMF and (somewhat less direct) Israeli businessman Dan Gertler. Plus, for the first time a concrete figure has been put to the fire sale of Congolese mines.

$5,5 billion. That is over 80% of the country's entire budget. It is also far more than the 3,1 billion in foreign aid the country receives a year.

The statement singles out the IMF, which provided a $551 million credit line to the Congolese government in return for reforms and greater transparency, especially in the mining sector. Joyce does not mince his words: "The IMF has not been firm enough with the DRC government and has allowed the presidents and his advisors to run rings around them." He calls on his own government to hold the IMF to account "and to end this scandal."

The modus operandi is by now well known: Congolese mining concessions are sold at prices a fraction of their real value to mysterious shell companies in the British Virgin Islands. In the past four years, at least 45 such companies have been involved in purchases from the Congo. Joyce has documents for nine of these outfits. The sales he is able to document pertain to four major mining concessions (see below) - they were sold for less than 5% of their market price. Three of these concessions, worth $3,6 billion, were sold to companies linked to Dan Gertler.

"These transactions were not disclosed by the DRC government. None of these asset sales were put out to public tender. None of the BVI companies have any known track-record of expertise in the mining or resource sectors."

This is big news that should have a serious impact on budgetary aid to the Congo and in donors' attitudes in general.


In response to press statements that were issued today citing my blog, as well as suggestions by other analysts, it is important to clarify that I am not predicting a winner in the election. Nor was my analysis commissioned by a political party.

I have not endorsed a candidate. My analysis merely intended to highlight possible trends and voting patterns. Given the lack of reliable polling, and the size and the diversity of the Congolese population, any analyses will inevitably delve into some speculation. I do, however, think that the race will be close.

Sources of election information

Addition: I had forgotten to mention the wonderful blog/website Local Voices that has been reporting from Bunyakiri (South Kivu) for the entire election period, including pictures and interviews.

In preparation for the big day, here are some important sources of information on the elections:

2006 elections:

I've uploaded the following documents here:
  • an Excel break-down of the 2006 presidential results by province: 1st round (slight incomplete, go to "Province Wise" for best view;
  • an Excel break-down of the 2006 presidential results by province: 2nd round (go to "Province Wise" for best view;
  • a nice analysis of the first round presidential results by Léon de Saint Moulin and Eléonore Wolff, along with a series of good maps;
  • an Excel spreadsheet of current national assembly members and their political affiliation;
  • an Excel spreadsheet of current senators with their political affiliation;
  • an analysis of the parliamentary elections of 2006 by Jean-Claude Willame;
  • an analysis of the 2006 provincial elections by MONUC;
  • the electoral law (2011 revised version);
  • the amended electoral law with distribution of seats in parliament (August 2011);
In addition, check out the following websites:
  •  The Congolese election commission (CENI) has a list of all voters, candidates and polling booths here;
  • The Congolese civil society coalition AETA (Agir pour les élections transparentes et apaisées)  has regular updates on its website;
  • Now African, a website run by two Congolese activists (Priscilla Kounkou Hoveyda and Camille Ntoto) featuring blogs on how Congolese in the East perceive elections;
  • Alex Engwete (aka Jimmy Yuma) has an excellent blog on Congolese politics and culture from the ground up;
  • Mutaani FM, a Congolese radio station broadcasting from Goma with a good website ;
  • Congolese journalist Mvemba Dizolele has a good blog here;
  • Uhaki News, a group of 25 Congolese female journalists reporting on local issues in the East;
  • Amy Ernst has a good blog on her work for a local NGO in the eastern Congo, as well as ruminations on Congolese politics and history from a local perspective;
  • Congo Ba Leki, a grouping of young Congolese bloggers. Unfortunately, they haven't had any postings since October.
  • For a look at Kasai, Le Grand Kasai has a blog here;
  • I am sure Laura Seay will be blogging on the elections from Texas in Africa;
  • The official campaign websites of Etienne Tshisekedi, Vital Kamerhe, and Joseph Kabila;
  • And of course, the incomparable Radio Okapi, the UN radio in the country.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Who will win the presidential elections? A long, rough guess

Disclaimer: The figures below are rough estimates, and there has been no reliable polling. The inclinations of the Congolese population are very difficult to divine - this exercise is not so much a prognosis, but a guidelines to possible trends in voting across the provinces. 

I should also point out that abstention rates will probably vary (and will be incredibly important) - turnout is likely to be higher in the Kasais than in the Kivus, for example. That will affect the vote. I have slightly adjusted the final spread to reflect this, although I do not provide turnout estimates here.

Finally, these figures assume that there is no rigging at the polling stations or in the electoral commission.

Who will win the 2011 presidential election in the Congo? Uncertainty has shrouded the run-up to the vote - there have been no reliable polls, a lot of hyperbole by all of the candidates, and many analysts seem to think that Kabila will have a easy time of it now that he only has to win a plurality of votes.

The elections will be a more local affair this time, as some of the cleavages (anti-RCD vs. anti-Kabila; East vs. West) that determined the 2006 elections will no longer apply. While in many areas discontent with the regime (and general anti-Kabila sentiment) will sway popular opinion, elsewhere local politics will trump, as each parties tries to stitch together an alliance of influential local leaders, such as priests, singers, parliamentarians and civil society leaders. In many other places, people will want to vote for change, but will not be sure whether any of the opposition candidates can provide.

Here's a look province-by-province how the vote might pan out:

Kinshasa (3,2 million voters):

Kinshasa is the hub of the opposition, a city bursting at the seams with disaffection with the government and a desire for change. In 2006, Kabila only got 14% here in the first round, but was still able to garner 32% in the second round. This is a bastion for Tshisekedi's UDPS party, and many other opposition politicians have strong mobilization networks here, as well.

Nonetheless, the current president can count on the support of some members of the Pende community from Bandundu (see above) due to Antoine Gizenga's support, and the ruling party has stitched together strong patronage networks in the town, whose beneficiaries will not want to see him go. Last but not least, some of the many infrastructure project the president promised are being realized, including a large hospital (Hopital du Cinquantenaire) and the reconstruction of the Boulevard 30 Juin and 20 Novembre. Also, the UDPS opposition has not been able to mobilize more than several thousand demonstrators, with several notable exceptions. This has led some to the fatalistic conclusion that Kabila will win no matter what.

Joseph Kabila: Kabila is very unpopular here, but, as everywhere in the world, political opinions depend first and foremost on your social circles, and Kabila has a lot of people on the payroll in the capital, which could matter. He will also, of course, benefit from cash handouts and the manipulation of the media, factors that are easier to control in a large city. Projection: 5%-20%.

Vital Kamerhe: He may attract some of the intellectuals and youths in town, people who dislike Kabila but are uneasy about Tshisekedi. He has been working very hard in the poor cités of Kinshasa, but there are few signs that he has gained much ground. Projection: 5%-10%.

Etienne Tshisekedi: This is his town - he has shown over the past year that he can mobilize tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of people here. In addition to his strong support among the youth, many opposition parties have endorsed him that have a good following in town (although this is not nearly as important as "Ya TshiTshi" himself). This include Martin Fayulu, Diomi Ndongala, Franck Diongo and Steve Mbikayi. However, the veteran opposition leader is reportedly tired and sick, which will limit his campiagning. Projection: 55%-80%.

Bas-Congo (1,5 million voters):

Bas-Congo was won overwhelmingly by Jean-Pierre Bemba in 2006 with 36% in the first round and 74% in the second. There have been some modest infrastructure projects in the province since then, including repairs on the Route Nationale #1 (Matadi-Kinshasa), other repairs to roads and bridges, as well as the construction of several schools and health centers. Will this, however, be enough to overcome the distrust toward the central government? The Ne-Kongo community is fiercely proud and has generally been dismissive of the current regime. The brutal suppression of the (often irredentist)  Bundu dia Kongo political-spiritual movement in 2002, 2007 and 2008 in Bas-Congo, which resulted in over a hundred death, is still vivid in the Kongolese memory. One will also often hear complaints about how Bas-Congo provides the most customs revenues, as well as the most electricity of all provinces, but receives precious little of public spending.

Joseph Kabila: Has the advantage of having built a network of patronage in the provinces that includes employees at port in Matadi, the airbase in Kitona and the Inga dam (to what extent these beneficiaries of largesse will vote for him is not clear). His allies in the provinces include Antoine Ghonda (itinerant ambassador), Luzolo Bambi (minister of justice), Yerodia Ndombasi (senator, former minister of foreign affairs), and Simon Mbatshi (current governor of Bas-Congo). Many of these people are unpopular, but can still pull some strings. In addition, Kabila has the support of the official head of the Kimbanguist church, which is very strong in the province. Projection: 10%-30% of the vote.

Vital Kamerhe: Has received the key endorsement of Ne Muanda Nsemi, the head of the Bundu dia Kongo/Bundu dia Mayala movement. He visited Bas-Congo recently and, speaking partly in Kikongo, was warmly received by much of the population. Projection: 20%-40%.

Etienne Tshisekedi: The UDPS has had strong local chapters in Bas-Congo since Mobutu's days, and Tshisekedi is likely to get some default votes from those who don't trust Kabila and see Kamerhe as too close to the current president. In addition, Tshisekedi has the endorsement of Jean Claude Vuemba (head of the MPCR party), Diomi Ndongala (Démocratie chrétienne) and Marie-Therese Nlandu (who won 25% in Luozi territory in the 2006 presidential campaign). However, at the current pace, it is not clear whether he will be able to visit the province. Projection: 40%-65%

Léon Kengo wa Dondo: Has a relatively strong local party structure, as well as the support of Gilbert Kiakwama, a popular MP from Mbanza-Ngungu territory. Projection: 5%-10%

Bandundu (3,5 million voters):

Bandundu is a peculiar province, where one man and his party have enormous influence: Antoine Gizenga and the PALU party. According to sources from Bandundu, Gizenga, who was an ally of Patrice Lumumba and a key figure in the rebellion after is murder in 1961, will be able to transfer a substantial number of votes from his Pende community to Kabila. The Pende are the majority in the center and south of the province, including in the largest town of Kikwit.

In 2006, Gizenga won 80% of the votes in Bandundu in the first round. With his support, Kabila increased his share from 3% in the first round to 40% in the second round.

Joseph Kabila: The Route Nationale N1 is being repaired (financed by the African Development Bank and the World Bank), which for Bandundu has meant a drastic improvement in the 525km road connecting its largest city Kikwit with Kinshasa. In addition, the Loange bridge has been repaired, making travel between Kikwit and the Kasaian town of Tshikapa possible again. This has lowered food prices and made travel much easier. In addition, a hydroelectric dam is being built at Kakobola, which should help bring electricity to many in the province.

Besides Gizenga, Kabila can also count on leaders from other communities, such as Kin-Key Mulumba from Masimanimba, Mboso Nkodia from Kenge, and Olivier Kamitatu from Bulungu. Also, he recently named a new head of his Majorité présidentielle coalition, Aubin Minaku, who is from Idiofa. Projection: 25%-40%.

Vital Kamerhe: Kamerhe spent over two years in Bandundu province growing up (1975-1977), and he speaks fluent Lingala and Kikongo, which many in the province understand. His recent visit to Kikwit was marred by violence as his followers clashed with Kabila supporters, but he also received messages of support from local chiefs of the Yaka community. He is likely to pick up the votes of those who are dissatisfied with Kabila but do not like Tshisekedi (see below). Projection: 10%-20%.

Etienne Tshisekedi: There is a longstanding rivalry between Tshisekedi and Gizenga, which will have a negative impact on UDPS leaders' chances among the older generation of the Pende community. Tshisekedi was a minister in several governments - including that of Mobutu - that opposed the rebellion led by Gizenga. In addition, much of the local trade is being run by Luba traders from Kasai, which has rankled those native to the province. This could count against Tshisekedi.

While Tshisekedi has also lost the support of some of the UDPS stalwarts from the province (Mboso Nkodia, Jacques Matanda), he has the endorsement of politicians like Thérèse Pakasa. He is likely to pick of the votes of those who dislike Kabila and think that Kamerhe is too close to the current president. Projection: 30%-40%.

Equateur (3,9 million votes):

This province will be interesting to watch. It voted overwhelmingly for Jean-Pierre Bemba in 2006 - 97% of the population here voted for him in the second round. But the leader of the MLC is locked up in The Hague - will his votes transfer easily to Tshisekedi, the long-standing rival of Mobutu Sese Seko, who still has many fans here? Or has Kabila been able to infiltrate the province through a network of alliances with local leaders?

Joseph Kabila: There has been little infrastructure development here over the past five years, many boat accidents and fighting in Dongo that displaced many tens of thousands. So Kabila will have a hard time standing on his record. He can, however, count on some votes due to his alliances - José Endundo, his environment minister, will get some votes in Mbandaka; other allies include Henri Lokondo and Mokolo wa Mpombo. Other former Mobutists may also provide support - on a recent trip to the province, Kabila's wife Olive stayed in houses provided by Seti Yale (former national security advisor) at every stop. Projection: 5%-25%.

Vital Kamerhe: To my knowledge, this is one part of the country where Vital has not spent much time, nor does he have many allies from here. The big exception is the secretary-general of Kamerhe's UNC party, Jean-Bertrand Ewanga, who is also the former governor of Equateur. Projection: 5%-15%.

Etienne Tshisekedi: For me, his popularity in Equateur is a question mark, given the nostalgia in some circles for Mobutu's days. Nonetheless, many will see him as the most reliable opposition candidate. His chief of staff Albert Moleka also has support here, as do his allies Ingele Ifoto and Lisanga Bonganga. Projection: 20-40%.

Others: This is a province where we can expect other presidential candidates to do well. Léon Kengo wa Dondo, Mobutu's former prime minister, may pick up a fair share of votes here (he has the endorsement of former governor José Makila), as will Nzanga Mobutu, the former Maréchal's son. I expect these dark horse candidates to win 20%-40% here. There are, however, rumors that Kengo could back Tshisekedi at the last minute, and Jean-Pierre Bemba might still throw his considerable weight behind someone.

Kasai-Occidental (2,6 million votes):

The Kasais are, of course, known as Tshisekedi's heartland. This is true to a large extent, and he will do well among the Luba (his father's community) and Lulua (his mother's community) populations. The Kasais, however, contain other communities that often have strained relations with the Luba due to historical differences and political favoritism. These communities have been arduously courted by Kabila - in Kasai-Occidental, they include the Tshokwe, Pende, and Kuba.

In 2006, Kabila ended up winning 23% of the vote here in the second round. We need to wary of these numbers, however, as voter turnout in 2006 was extremely low here (45% as compared with over 80% in most of the East) due to the UDPS boycott.

Joseph Kabila: The population has benefited from some modest infrastructure projects that have helped link parts of the province to Bandundu and Kinshasa. Kabila will use local allies to garner support, as well, in particular the speaker of the national assembly Evariste Boshab (from Mweka), minister of energy Gilbert Tshiongo (Dimbelenge) and head of migration service Francois Beya. Projection: 10%-25%.

Vital Kamerhe: Kamerhe spent some time in the Kasai provinces growing up, and speaks some Tshiluba, but many Luba still remember an unfortunate speech he gave when he was minister of information for Joseph Kabila - when asked why there were so few Luba in government, he reportedly answered: "The Luba - what importance do they have? ('Les Luba c'est quoi?')" I have not sourced this, but several Luba I have spoken with remember this. Nonetheless, Kamerhe has the support of the former governor of Kasai Occidental, Claudel Lubaya. Projection: 5%-15%.

Etienne Tshisekedi: Tshisekedi was born in Kananga, the capital of the province, and his mother his from the Lulua sub-tribe of the Luba that populates a large part of the province. In addition, he has the support of Delly Sesanga, a popular MP from Luiza. Projection: 65%-85%.

Kasai-Oriental (2,6 million votes):

Much of the same factors apply here as they do for Kasai-Occidental. Tshisekedi will be extremely popular among the Luba, but will probably fail to get the majority of votes in some other communities, including the Songye and Tetela groups in the north of the province. Kabila won 32% of the vote here in 2006, including over 80% in the territories of Lomela, Lodja and Katako-Kombe. However, the same caveat about turnout applies here: only 40% of registered voters showed up to vote here in 2006. This time, many enthusiastic first-time voters will turn out to vote, largely for Tshisekedi.

Joseph Kabila: Discontent against Kabila has been exacerbated by the decline of the state diamond company MIBA, which is based in the capital Mbuji-Mayi. There has also been a lack of infrastructure projects here, as well conflicts of land and local power. Kabila will try to gain the favor of the minoriy Tetela and Songye communities through his many prominent allies from the province: minister of information Lambert Mende (Lodja) , former minister of foreign affairs She Okitundu, popular MP Christophe Lutundula (Katako-Kombe), former head of MIBA Jonas Mukamba, minister of interior Adolphe Lumano (Kabinda), and minister of regional cooperation Raymond Tshibanda (Lomela). Projection: 10%-30%.

Vital Kamerhe: Again, he does not have many prominent allies here he can count on. Projection: 5%-10%.

Etienne Tshisekedi: His family is from Kabeya-Kamwanga, in the heart of the province, and he has a deeply loyal following here. His reputation is nothing less than that of a messiah among certain parts of the Luba community. He can also count on support from allies such as Roger Lumbala and Christian Badibangi. Projection: 65-85%.

Others: Several other presidential candidates are from the Kasais, including Oscar Kashala, who will will several percent at least here.

Province Orientale (3,8 million votes):

This province is difficult to predict, as it stretches from lowland rainforest to the highlands of Ituri and the savannahs of Haut-Uele. Kabila won big in 2006, with 70% in the first round and 79% in the second. The province is to a majority Swahili-phone, and almost half of the province's votes lie in the Ituri district. The sparsely-populated north has been the victim of LRA attacks over the past years, which will probably count against President Kabila. The electorate in the West of the province has a lot on common with Equateur (including the Lingala language), and voted for Bemba and Nzanga Mobutu in 2006.

There have been a few infrastructure projects that Kabila has taken credit for - repairs to the dirt road between Kisangani and Banalia, the urban road network in Kisangani, and the road from Beni to Kisangani. In addition, the security situation in Ituri, while still tenuous, is much better than during the war.

Joseph Kabila: He can count on the strong presence of his political party, as well as allies such as Monsignor Marini Bodho (Head of the Church of Christ in the Congo, from Ituri); John Tibasima (former head of Okimo mine, former RCD-K-ML rebel, Ituri); and Governor Médard Autsai. However, few of these people are actually very popular. Discontent with the pace of reform has been contagious, and this is one of the harder provinces to call - it has not suffered as much from conflict as the Kivus, but it has also not benefited much from development, and people want change. It may be more of a question of the strength of his candidates than the incumbent's prowess. Projection: 35%-60%.

Vital Kamerhe: Kamerhe has apparently been able to gain the endorsement of Thomas Lubanga's UPC party (why Lubanga himself is in prison in The Hague), although Tshisekedi contests this. Kamerhe is also seen as an easterner, which might help, but otherwise he is not well rooted in the province. Projection: 15%-30%.

Etienne Tshisekedi: The UDPS used to have a strong mobilization potential in Kisangani, but it is not clear to what extent they have maintained this over the years. They have not, in any case, been able to mobilize large numbers of people in the streets over the past months like in Lubumbashi, Mbuji-Mayi and Kinshasa. He can count on the help of people like Matthieu Badjoko, the Dynamique Tshisekedi Président (DTP) campaign manager for Kisangani, and perhaps on Thomas Lubanga's UPC. Projection: 20%-40%.

Katanga (4,6 million votes):

This is Joseph Kabila's home province, and he won 93% of the votes here in the second round of 2006 elections. However, the province is far from homogenous - Kabila will stand to do well in the north, where he is from (or where his father is from, to be more precise, he has rarely been there). He will have a much harder time in the south, where tensions have been rising between the large immigrant Luba-Kasai population, which sympathizes with Tshisekedi and deeply distrusts firebrand Kabila loyalists like Kyungu wa Kumwanza. In addition, there are parts of the larger Lunda population along the border with Angola that feels marginalized - it is out of the population that a fringe has been advocating secession and rebellion.

Joseph Kabila: I can't name the many dozen stalwarts of the regime from the province. But Governor Moise Katumbi, perhaps the most popular politician in the province, has fully backed Kabila, as has Katumbi's bitter rival Jean-Claude Muyambo, who leads the Bemba community organization (he's a southerner). Defense minister Charles Mwando Simba and éminence grise of the regime Katumba Mwanke are also from the east of the province (Pweto and Moba) and will be influential in their constituencies. Projection: 55%-80%.

Vital Kamerhe: Unless I am mistaken, I don't think that Kamerhe stands much of a chance in the province outside of urban intellectuals looking for the third option (and those may also choose Kashala). Projection: 5%-15%.

Etienne Tshisekedi: There is a large Luba population in Lubumbashi, Kolwezi and Likasi. A full 25% of Lubumbashi votes for Jean-Pierre Bemba in 2006, for example. Projection: 10%-25%.

Maniema (0,9 million votes):

This sparsely populated province voted solidly for Kabila in 2006 and is likely to do so again this time around. Kabila's mother is from the province, and other parties - especially Vital Kamerhe's UNC - have had a hard time campaigning. Parts of the province have been hit by conflict, especially along the border with South Kivu in the southeast, but not as badly as the other Kivu provinces. Infrastructure projects have largely not materialized, other than a few bridges that have been built

Joseph Kabila: Should win big here, with the help of his mother and others from Maniema, including Alexis Thamwbe Mwamba (foreign minister), Kikaya bin Karubi (ambassador to United Kingdom) and General Gabriel Amisi, commander of land forces. The latter figure has been particularly influential, financing a popular soccer team in Kindu and getting involved in various businesses. Projection: 60%-80%.

Vital Kamerhe: Kamerhe is an easterner and aims at capitalizing on the lack of development in the province. He has a relatively active local party structure, but his activists have been frustrated by the security services. Projection: 15%-30%.

Etienne Tshisekedi: Tshisekedi does not have much presence here and is likely to win many votes. Projection: 5%-10%.

South Kivu (2 million votes):

This province has turned against Joseph Kabila since 2006, but the president still retains many powerful allies here. However, having won the last election on his reputation as a peacemaker and bulwark against Rwanda, the province has seen five years of continuous conflict and, more recently, a rise in prominence of Kinyarwandan-speakers in the army. The province has also not seen much in terms of infrastructure development, although the have finally finished a nice road from the airport to Bukavu, while the good dirt road (N4) from Bukavu to Kitutu is apparently still fairly good.

In any case, he will certainly not get the 98% of votes he got last time, but he does stand to hold his ground in some areas in the interior. 

Joseph Kabila: This is probably the province where his effort to gain local allies has been most explicit - he has retained the support of the powerful customary chiefs of Ngweshe, Kalehe, Kabare, Luhwindja, Idjwi South/North, as well as some of the less powerful local chiefs from the lowlands areas of Shabunda, Uvira and Fizi. In a place like Luhwindja, where the Banro gold mining company has been employing people and improving infrastructure, he is likely to win a lot of votes, whereas cities like Bukavu and Uvira will be more difficult to win over. Soldiers in the army - of which there are many thousand deployed here - have also reportedly been campaigning for him. Projection: 30%-50%.

Vital Kamerhe: This is his home turf, but that may not be in his favor throughout the province. He stands to do well in his native Bukavu and Walungu, where his Shi community predominates. Tensions between the Rega and Shi population, however, will dent his success in Mwenga territory, where Kabila loyalists like Ambroise Bulambo are popular. Projection: 40%-60%.

Etienne Tshisekedi: The veteran opposition leader made an opportunistic alliance with Rwandan-backed RCD rebels during the peace deal negotiations. Many still remember that in the province and dislike him for this reason. South Kivu has never been very favorable to the UDPS, but Tshisekedi has been using people like Elias Mulungula (Mwenga) and Valentin Mubake (Bukavu/Shabunda) to campaign for him. There are also rumors that the locally popular Yakutumba rebels in Fizi territory are backing the UDPS. Projection: 5%-10%.

North Kivu (3 million votes):

This province has many internal divisions, which will be reflected in the vote. Based the north of the territory, the Nande community make up almost half of the population here, and they are a very homogenous block. This time, however, their leaders are split, with Venant Tshipasa and Apollinaire Malu Malu backing Kabila and Mbusa Nyamwisi running for Tshisekedi (and himself?). But popularity for Kabila has faded in this part of the territory, as security has deteriorated in the towns of Beni and Butembo and the economy has suffered, as well.

In the south of the province, the CNDP political party and soldiers have been overtly campaigning for Kabila, especially in Masisi territory. Kabila is therefore likely to win votes in the Tutsi community (although perhaps not in urban areas), as well as in the Hutu community, where customary chiefs have backed him, as well. Other, less numerous communities like the Hunde, Nyanga and Tembo are less likely to vote for him.

2006 results: 78% first round, 96% second round for Kabila. 

Joseph Kabila: In addition to the above, he has received the backing of Jean-Luc Mutokambali, Sekimonyo wa Magango, Eugene Serufuli, Mwene Songa and Mwami Ndeze (Hutu community); the Rwakabuba family, CNDP and Edouard Mwangachuchu (Tutsi community); the implicit support of Abbé Malu Malu and Archbishop Sikuli (Nande community). Like in South Kivu, soldiers in the national army have been campaigning for Kabila's re-election, as well. Projection: 30%-56%.

Vital Kamerhe: He is also an easterner, and during his trips to Goma he has been greeted by large crowds. The capital of the province has a large Shi population (up to a quarter of the town), which helps Kamerhe here. He does not have big-name allies in the province, however. Projection: 30%-40%.

Etienne Tshisekedi: He has made some inroads into the Nande with Mbusa Nyamwisi's support, but is otherwise not very well known here. Projection: 10%-25%.

If you take these projections and weight them by the population of the provinces, you can conclude that it will be a close race between Kabila and Tshisekedi. Turnout will be crucial, as will the extent to which disaffection with the current government will translate into votes for opposition candidates. A last-minute endorsement by Bemba and coalitions among opposition candidates could also sway the vote.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Kabila rallies popular musicians behind him

In a country that is crazy about music, politicians have always courted the support of popular musicians. And musicians have often complied, preferring to take their money and avoid problems with those in power. This election season is no different - the criticisms of yesteryear have fallen away and even previously skeptical singers like Koffi Olomide and Papa Wemba are throwing their talents behind Joseph Kabila's campaign. In fact, of the most popular singers, I think only Fally Ipupa and Ferre Gola have not endorsed Kabila's campaign. As far as I can remember, Kabila has been able to rally more singers behind him this time than in 2006.

Here is a list of the singers who have thrown their weight behind Kabila: Koffi Olomide, Felix Wazekwa, JB Mpiana, Werrason, Papa Wemba, Karmapa, Tshala Muana, Reddy Amisi, Blaise Bula and Lutumba Simaron.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tshisekedi in South Africa: What happened?

Before arriving in Kisangani on Thursday evening, opposition candidate Etienne Tshisekedi spent much of the first two weeks of the election campaign in South Africa. What was he up to?

According to the man himself, he was seeking political and financial support from the ruling ANC and businessmen. He reportedly met at least once with Gwede Mantashe, the Secretary-General of the ANC, and by Thursday could boast that he had been able to rent a DC-3, a small passenger jet and a helicopter. These assets are key, given the dearth of commercial jets in the Congo (the UDPS says the government is hogging commercial air assets, others say there this is just due to the lack of aircraft since Hewa Bora's license was suspended in July this year, leaving only CAA flying domestically).

This has set off speculation in domestic and diplomatic circles that Tshisekedi has received support from President Jacob Zuma's government. Some also point to the fact that the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) is fielding more election observers than the EU, the AU and Carter Center, and the head of this mission is Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, wife of Charles Nqakula, who is a close adviser to President Zuma and his envoy to Sudan and Zimbabwe (and previously Burundi).

But it's not so simple. After all, the same day Tshisekedi flew to Kisangani, South African authorities announced that a new deal would be signed today (November 12) on the Grand Inga hydroelectric dam between their national electricity provider Eskom and the Congolese electricity company, which could provide up to 40,000 MW of electricity, the largest such dam in the world. But this is merely an MoU, which may lead to a formal agreement in six months, and negotiations have been ongoing since 2004 on similar projects. Despite the tentative nature of the agreement, President Zuma will be in Lubumbashi today to officially sign the MoU.

Was it merely a coincidence that Tshisekedi was in South Africa just before the deal was signed with Kabila? If Zuma did provide support to the opposition, how can this be squared with a trip that will  be interpreted as an endorsement of Kabila's candidacy?

Some analysts I spoke with suggested that the South Africans were using Tshisekedi as leverage to squeeze a deal out of the Congolese (even though the Congolese could always renege, as they have in the past). Others say that Tshisekedi was really in South Africa for medical treatment (speculation about his health never abates), and his aircraft were not provided by Pretoria after all.

Relations between Presidents Zuma and Kabila have been through many twists and turns. Some of the powerbrokers around Kabila, in particular Katumba Mwanke, were reportedly closer to the Thabo Mbeki wing of the ANC during his leadership struggle against Jacob Zuma in 2009, and were viewed with some suspicion when Zuma won this struggle.

Shortly afterwards, however, news broke that two hitherto unknown companies in the British Virgin Islands, Caprikat and Foxwhelp, had obtained oil blocks in the Congo previously held by Irish company Tullow. Who was listed as the representatives of the two companies? None other than Khulubuse Zuma, the president's nephew, and Michael Hulley, the president's lawyer (who was promoted this week to be his official legal counsel). Possibly also involved - albeit indirectly - was Tokyo Sekwale, a prominent ANC businessman and minister.

Were these oil blocks peace offerings by Kabila to the South Africans? It isn't clear, but one of the other companies that lost out in this deal was Divine Inspiration, which allegedly had links to the Mbeki-faction of the ANC.

South Africa is a key partner for the Congolese government. It is the largest economy in the region and the base for many of the mining companies operating in the Congo.

So who are they backing? I couldn't say, and obviously some of this is speculation. But it wouldn't be too bizarre if they were backing more than one horse. Angola (Pretoria biggest competitor in the region) allegedly made a similar move earlier this year, when they provided some support to Vital Kamerhe (or strategically leaked information in this regard). Shortly afterwards, the Congolese government announced that they would hold off on pursuing their claims to offshore oil blocks - that are currently being managed by Angola - until 2014.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Guest blog: Taking stock of the China deal

This is a guest blog by Johanna Jansson, a PhD candidate in International Development Studies at the Department of Society and Globalisation, Roskilde University, Denmark. Her PhD project explores the DRC’s relations with its emerging and traditional development partners. 

The ‘China deal’, the minerals-for-infrastructure agreement struck in 2007 between the DRC and China, is one of the most well-known embodiments of the increasing Chinese presence on the African continent. 

Most of you are familiar with the story. By means of a barter-type agreeement, the Sino-Congolese mining joint venture (JV), Sino–Congolais des Mines (Sicomines), was created and allocated mining titles in Katanga. In exchange for access to mining titles, Sicomines will construct transport and social infrastructure in the DRC, financed by loans from the Chinese state-owned bank China Export–Import (Exim) Bank. The loans are to be reimbursed by means of the profits from the mining venture. The mining titles allocated are the Mashamba West and Dikuluwe copper- and cobalt concessions.  

The agreement was contested during 2008 and 2009 by a range of domestic and international actors. Among the concerns raised, the most salient pertained to a lack of transparency in the negotiation process, concerns for debt sustainability and a claim that the agreement was skewed in favour of the Chinese party. The Sicomines episode became known worldwide since it provoked the perhaps most conspicuous (geo) political controversy seen to date between an African country’s traditional (IMF) and emerging (China) external partners. The 2009 settlement was in favour of the IMF’s preferences: the loan towards infrastructure was capped at US$ 3 billion and the guarantee provided by the Congolese state for the reimbursement of the China Exim Bank loan to the commercial mining venture was removed. 

The agreement is now under implementation (refer to the table below for an overview of the infrastructure projects implemented). The mining venture is slated to come into production in 2012-2013 and reach full capacity in 2016.

In a recent paper for the South African Institute of International Affairs, I take a close look at the agreement from its inception in 2007 to the state of implementation as of May 2011. The paper draws on field work in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi in September-October 2008, February-March and October 2009 and February-May 2011. I have conducted interviews with Congolese respondents from government departments, civil society and the private sector; Chinese respondents from state-owned and private enterprises and the Chinese Embassy; and representatives from international governmental and non-governmental organisations, the diplomatic community and observers. Around 50 of my 130 interviews concerned the Sicomines agreement specifically.

In the paper, I argue that the Sicomines episode reflects the contemporary changes in China’s role globally. The power configurations of the global political economy shifted significantly from 2007 when the agreement was first signed to 2009 when it was renegotiated. China’s ascension as a global leader was fast-tracked by the global economic downturn. Its position as an external actor to reckon with in the DRC is now consolidated, a development which in itself signifies change in the DRC’s international relations. Yet, the Sicomines agreement also represents continuity in that regard, since it was amended to the benefit of the policy preferences of the IMF. The revision came about for several reasons which I outline in the paper. The most important is that China, with its strong strategic interest in taking up an active role in the IMF, had to balance its goals in the DRC and in the IMF. The lobbying efforts of the traditional donors, also members of the IMF’s board, therefore had the desired effect of making China agree to a downsizing of the agreement.

Since the Sicomines agreement was revised in 2009, it has slipped down the agenda and is no longer subject of a great deal of Kinshasa’s attention. “It’s under implementation, and it’s going slower than the Congolese government would have wanted”, seems to be the assessment of most people, Congolese and expatriates, I’ve talked to this year. Yet, many questions around what the agreement actually meant and means for the DRC remain both undebated and unanswered.

A matter that I find deserves to be opened up is the perception that the downsizing of the agreement was primarily made for debt sustainability reasons. It was part of the considerations, rightly so, but there is more to that story. I show in the paper that despite the fact that the quantity of minerals contained by the mining concessions is uncertain, even IMF and World Bank staff has observed that the repayment margin for the loan to be contracted under the 2009 version of the agreement is important. A second tranche of lending towards infrastructure may thus have been within the reimbursement capacity of the Sicomines JV. In other words, a loan larger than US$ 3 billion could have been justified. The halving of the credit line to be extended by China Exim Bank towards infrastructure refurbishment therefore needs to be read as more than a result of debt sustainability concerns. It is also an expression of the IMF’s and the traditional donor community’s preferences in terms of how investments in the mining sector should be structured: that investments should be channelled through the Mining Code, the companies should pay taxes and public goods should be provided by the state. By means of the renegotiation of the Sicomines agreement, this model partly trumped the original developmental-state approach: a credit line extended by a state-owned bank providing up-front financing of turnkey infrastructure projects, and reimbursements on that loan replacing payment of profit taxes. Both approaches have their pros and cons in the Congolese context, and I discuss this further in the paper.

Lastly and importantly, I find that there is a strange discrepancy between the enormous attention devoted by the international community to the issue prior to October 2009 and today’s relative silence. After all, the amendments made in 2009 only encompassed a cap on the infrastructure loans. US$ 3 billion of loans are still to be contracted by the DRC, and the real story in terms of the DRC getting value for ‘money’ (mining titles) will in this case be determined by the implementation of the infrastructure projects. As my paper shows, and as indicated by the table below, one project is completed, eight are under implementation and six projects are under negotiation. For the remainder of projects, the disbursement pace will be determined by the profitability of the mine. The selection of specific projects and the terms of these (most notably the price) are determined in negotiations between the Chinese parties in Kinshasa and Beijing on the one hand, and the Bureau for Coordination and Monitoring of the Sino-Congolese Programme (Bureau de Coordination et de Suivi du Programme Sino-Congolais) and the Congolese Agency for Public Works (Agence Congolaise des Grands Travaux) on the other. Anyone interested in whether or not the Sicomines agreement is a ‘good deal’ for the DRC – this is where to take a closer look over the years to come.

State of implementation of the infrastructure projects financed through the Sicomines agreement

This table is reproduced from Jansson, J. (2011). “The Sicomines agreement: change and continuity in the DRC’s international relations”. Occasional paper, October. Johannesburg: South African Institute for International Affairs.

Status as of
June 2011
Cost ($ million)
The road between Beni and Niania, North Kivu
Completed and evaluated
Boulevard Triomphale, Kinshasa
Underway, about to be completed
Boulevard Sendwe, Kinshasa
Central hospital (Hôpital du Cinquantenaire), Kinshasa
Underway, estimated inauguration October 2011
Part 1 of the Boulevard du 30 juin, Kinshasa
Underway, about to be completed
Part 2 of the Boulevard du 30 juin, Kinshasa
Tourism Avenue, Kinshasa
Lutendele Road, Kinshasa
The road between Lubumbashi and Kasomeno, Katanga province
15 km of road in Butembo, North Kivu province
Not yet started
Part 1 of the esplanade in front of the People’s Palace, Kinshasa
Part 2 of the esplanade in front of the People’s Palace, Kinshasa
Not negotiated at the time of the 2011 field research
Avenue de la Paix, Kinshasa
Avenue Ndjoku, Kinshasa
The road between Bukavu and Kamaniola

Source: Johanna Jansson’s personal interviews in Kinshasa with ACGT representatives, 15 February 2011 and 3 February 2009; a representative for one of the Chinese companies within Sicomines, 3 May 2011; and with BCPSC representatives, 23 February 2009 and 3 March 2009.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

North Kivu Simmering on Eve of Elections

I have said previously on this blog that North Kivu would probably not be as marred by electoral violence as the hotbeds of opposition in Kinshasa, Mbuji-Mayi and Kananga. I was wrong.

The electoral divide in the East, which has pitted Kabila loyalists against Vital Kamerhe, has dangerously overlapped with pre-existing ethnic and political rifts. In particular, rwandophone candidates from the Hutu and Tutsi community have been resorting to divisive rhetoric. Human Rights Watch reported that Sylvain Seninga, who is campaigning for re-election as a national MP, said in a public speech on March 25 that Rwandophones should "free themselves from this domination, this slavery," that had been imposed on them "by a little people that does not even know the origins of its ancestors."

In September, another local Hutu leader, Nyunga Munyamariba, told a crowd in Masisi that "whoever does not vote for the Rwandophone candidates must be eliminated." In October, army officer Colonel Mudahunga told a crowd that had gathered for the opening of a new army center that if Vital Kamerhe is found voting in Rutshuru and Masisi territories "he will be shot."

Many of these people are linked to either former Governor Eugene Serufuli or to the ex-CNDP, and locally people are speaking of the rebirth of the "rwandophonie," a coalition of Hutu and Tutsi populations that was stitched together under the diligent watch of Serufuli and his Rwandan allies during RCD rule in the province (1998-2006). Many of them are now closely allied to President Kabila - the CNDP political party, for example, has endorsed Kabila, and ex-CNDP officers have been informally campaigning for him, in particular in Masisi and Rutshuru, where many of them are from. They point to the UDPS' anti-Rwandan statements and Vital Kamerhe's notorious opposition to the joint Congolese-Rwandan military operations in 2009 that integrated the CNDP into the army.

This campaigning has infuriated other segments of the population, in particular the Hunde community, which has felt under occupation by the CNDP in Masisi for some years (this is the main lament of the APCLS armed group of Col. Janvier). They claim that the CNDP is further encroaching on their land - indeed, the more radical Hunde suggest that none of the Hutu and Tutsi of Masisi, who are largely descendents of immigrants from Rwanda between 1930-1960, have customary rights to land there.

These tensions erupted into violence during the last week, when the popular Hunde singer Fabrice Mumpfiritsa was kidnapped by armed men from his recording studio in Goma. He had previously supported Joseph Kabila, but recently switched sides and began singing in praise of the opposition. After his disappearance, members of the Hunde community in Goma, but also in Masisi, set up road blocks and began protesting. A web petition was set up, titled "Give us Back our Poet." Police and soldiers cleared the streets by shooting in the air, and the UN injured one demonstrator by shooting him in the leg.

By Monday morning, Fabrice had been found, battered and bruised, in a suburb of Goma. According to some sources, a government delegation, aware of the outrage his kidnapping had caused, was in Goma today to help take him to South Africa for medical treatment.

Where Tshisekedi is Coming From

 I should add that some of the incidents of abuse reported below have not been confirmed and, according to reliable sources, may have been less serious than described below. However, a report released by the UN today documents many more abuses linked to the electoral process that have taken place over the past year.

Like myself, many Congolese and foreign observers were taken aback by Etienne Tshisekedi's interview, broadcast on local TV last Sunday, in which he called on his supporters to "mobilize everywhere and set free the supporters...and break all the prisons." He also said "we don’t need to wait for the elections. In a democracy, whoever has the power is the majority of the people. Therefore, from this day on I am the Head of State of the DRC."

Could this really be the same Tshisekedi who had suffered torture, persecution and internal exile under Mobutu and Laurent-Désiré Kabila? Who had insisted on non-violent resistance when everybody else was forming armed groups? As critical as many have been about Tshisekedi's tactics in the past (his Cap-Martin reconciliation with Mobutu, his alliance with Rwanda/RCD-G in 2002, his boycott of the 2006 elections), this interview came as a shock.

But should it really have? For the past months, the UDPS has faced obstacle after obstacle in its preparations for elections. Demanding transparency in the voter register and better access to the election commission, UDPS supporters have demonstrated in Kinshasa every Thursday for the past six weeks, with little reaction from either the UN or the government. The demonstrations often deteriorated into street battles with the police and thugs - at least three of their supporters died and several dozen are in prison. None of these arrests have been carried out according to due process, but the minister of justice and public prosecutor have not responded to repeated UDPS letters.

UDPS posters have been torn down in public places, especially in Place Victoire, and on one occasion men in plain clothes open fire on people who had just distributed posters and flyers of Tshisekedi at Rond Point Ngaba.

The government has booked many of the country's few planes (there is only one commercial airliner still flying), making it difficult for opposition parties to fly their members around the country - this was one of the purposes of Tshisekedi's visit to South Africa, where has was able to secure the lease of a DC-3, a small jet and a helicopter.

Violent repression has also taken place in the provinces. On October 28, a UDPS demonstration was reportedly broken up by the bodyguards of Governor Kasanji, resulting in the deaths of two minors and the arrests of several supporters. On November 4, the seat of the UDPS in Kisantu (Bas-Congo) was set on fire by unidentified assailants. On November 5/6, UDPS and UNAFEC parties traded insults in Lubumbashi, resulting in the sacking of the UNAFEC office and an attack on UDPS installations - one UDPS supporter died.

Given this backdrop, Tshisekedi's statement is rendered more understandable, albeit not any more forgivable. His party is under pressure from the authorities, suffering from a lack of funds (the home page of his campaign features a video of Tshisekedi asking for contributions) and behind schedule in its campaign. He may well think that he needs to radicalize his message and step up his confrontation with the government, sending a signal to his supporters that he will stand firm. Two analysts sympathetic to Tshisekedi have written to me, both suggesting that his interview amounted to "psy-ops."

What, however, is the endgame? Is it merely to motivate his followers and project an image of strength as they go into the last round? (Ali taunting Foreman, "Is that all you got, George? My Grandma punches harder than you...") Or will the UDPS actively seek out violence to create a political crisis and pressure the government?

We shall see. I hope it's not the latter.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Transcript of Tshisekedi interview


Original language: Lingala.  This is an unofficial English transcript.

Reporter: The echoes are raging in Kinshasa that you are still in South Africa to establish contacts with the ANC, the party with which you plan to collaborate in managing Congo tomorrow,and, in addition, in Kinshasa, Kisangani, the people are growing impatient and would like to know when you will be back home because it’s already been more than a week since the campaign has begun, there are many problems in Congo, the problems of planes…He will present his schedule, the program of Kisangani, Lubumbashi and we will give his telephone number to the public, the Congolese are impatient to know when you will return to Congo !

Etienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba: By mid-week I will be in Kisangani, so there is no problem. But those who say that Kabila would stop my aircraft from landing in Congo, they know nothing about the real situation, Kabila does not represent anything anymore. There is only him and his wife left, because he is not even the minority leader any longer. For this same minority has sold him out! Guys like Boshab, Mende currently have a double standard talk, in the morning they talk one way and another at night. Finally, they let him go. Therefore he can’t prevent the majority leader’s aircraft from landing, because in a democracy, it is the majority who leads and I'm the head of the majority. So, I'm the President of the DRC,  I am the actual Head of State.

Reporter: “Son of the country“ E. Tshisekedi wa Mulumba, here  we are swarmed by Congolese people who came to listen to you live. They ask you to repeat your last statements.

Etienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba: As I said, we don’t need to wait for the elections. In a democracy, whoever has the power is the majority of the people. And the people of Congo, in its majority have chosen and trust Tshisekedi. Therefore, from this day on I am the Head of State of the DRC.

Reporter: “Son of the country“ E. Tshisekedi wa Mulumba, since we have put up your campaign ads where you say “People come first“, people answer Tshisekedi comes first, it has become a form of greeting in Kinshasa. But yesterday, did you get the news from Katanga? Where supporters of a party have gone to bother and fight the opposition’s supporters, what do you say to that?

Etienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba: First, you must know that this problem doesn’t come from another party, these incidents are to be blamed on Unafec, a party whose president is a foreigner, a Portuguese named Doliveira. He calls himself NKIUNGU to pretend make believe he is Congolese, he isn’t Congolese, he’s Portuguese.

Second, I just said that I am the Head of the Congo because I have the majority. The Congolese, or rather the compatriots who are in Lubumbashi and in all of Katanga, know well that the majority, well, that’s them! And in a democracy, power is in the hands of the majority and not the minority. Thus, they shouldn’t have left a small handful of people led by a "lunatic, a foreigner" who’s making up the laws over there. They had to teach them a lesson and follow them to their retrenchment because the majority cannot always complain.

Also, I take this opportunity to tell the so-called leaders of Congo who are listening to me that I have learned our brothers in Kinshasa, Mbuji-Mayi, Lubumbashi are imprisoned. Therefore, I give them 48 hours, next Tuesday at noon I would like to receive the news that no opponent remains in prison. If it is not so, Tuesday at noon, I will ask my base wherever they are, in Kinshasa, Mbuji-Mayi, Kananga and Lubumbashi to mobilize everywhere and set free the supporters and other opponents and break all the prisons.

And if unfortunately, police officers and other soldiers come to bother them, then they should be taught a lesson. And if they flee to the camps they should be hunted all the way out there and followed to their camp where they will receive a good punishment even in front of their family!

Reporter: So you're saying if by Tuesday, supporters and opponents are not freed, you will give the order to the Congolese who are your base to take responsibility! Therefore to go free them by force and that no one is to interfere with them. But the big question remains in Congo when will you return to Congo?

Etienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba: Isn’t Kisangani in Congolese territory?

Reporter: But which day will you land in Kisangani?

Etienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba: I said earlier in the middle of the week that is now starting, since then I will have finished my errands. Once this is done, I will give precision 48 hours ahead because I will come with my own plane, so there is no problem.

Reporter: So what do you say to the Congolese regarding the elections?

Etienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba: For the elections, the message is simple as I said earlier the Head of the country remains the Congolese people, so Etienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba we ensure the electoral process in our country.

Mr NGOY MULUNDA, if he does not pay attention to everything we tell him he will cry in his mother tongue on December 6.

Therefore rest assured, as it is you who have the election in your hands, it is you that are going to choose, no more worrying about having insomnia, do not worry and sleep like babies! Now talk to my advisor BONA who will give you my number to be in contact with you and therefore receive all election-related concerns generated either by the PPRD, the CSAC and others.

Advisor BONA: 0027790893872.