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

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Some violence, but little stumping as the campaign begins

This post has been updated: The popular Hunde singer Fabrice was reportedly taken from his recording studio by intelligence agents on Friday evening, allegedly because he refused to sing for President Kabila's campaign. He was released in the early hours of Monday morning and is currently in hospital, receiving treatment. (h/t Kris)

 The election campaign is into its second week now, with only modest campaigning by the main presidential contenders and some disturbing violence.

Even before the campaign official began, groups such as Human Rights Watch and the Congolese umbrella group Act for Peaceful and Transparent Elections (AETA), were warning of violence and hate speech. Human Rights Watch pointed to UNAFEC, a party with a strong following in Katanga, which was using hate speech against outsiders, in particular Kasaians. On April 31, Kyungu is reported to have said in a public speech: "There are too many mosquitoes in the living room. We have to spray some insecticide." This past week, at the beginning of the campaign, Kyungu conveyed again his belief that only "children of Katanga" should run for parliamentary seats there.

This hate speech has degenerated into violence on several occasions. In August, UNAFEC members attacked the UDPS office in Lubumbashi, damaging some cars and buildings (there were also allegations of UDPS provocations). Then, two days ago, UNAFEC reportedly clashed with UDPS supporters on their way to a Kyungu rally in Lubumbashi - it is not clear who provoked whom first, but apparently several UDPS supporters were beaten up.

Kyungu and his party are known for their militant youth wing and their hostile views toward Kasaians.

Meanwhile, in Kinshasa last Wednesday armed men opened fire on a group of people who had reportedly just finished distributing UDPS posters, seriously injuring two people. And just this evening, two political parties faced off in Kinshasa, throwing stones at each other. Over the past weeks, the UDPS has faced off with both the police and PPRD supporters in Kinshasa, resulting in several deaths and many injured.

Finally, in Goma just this evening there has been unrest with reports of shooting in the Katindo neighborhood. It's not yet clear what the source of troubles is, but some reports suggest that a popular musician from the Hunde ethnic community has been enlisted to sing for the presidential campaign, which did not go down well among other members of the community, who protested in the streets and tore up posters of Joseph Kabila.

(I am leaving out unrest in Mbuji-Mayi and inflammatory speech by opposition radios in Equateur).

While there appears to be plenty of violence, there is little positive, issues-based campaigning. In fact, there is little campaigning at all by presidential candidates. Of the three main presidential contenders (Tshisekedi-Kabila-Kamerhe), only Kabila has been visible, launching his campaign in his mother's home province of Maniema. Kabila is also by far the most visible in terms of posters and advertisements - he has bought all of the front-lit billboards in Kinshasa, making him the only candidate visible at night in the capital.

Tshisekedi is not even in the country, claiming that his plane was refused a landing permit in Kisangani (the civil aviation authority denies this). Last I heard, he was still in South Africa. Kamerhe began his campaign in Kinshasa and Bas-Congo. But it seems that the opposition campaigns have suffered substantially from a lack of funds, as well as transport difficulties - only one airline (CAA) is still making domestic flights since a crash prompted Hewa Bora's license to be suspended.


Anonymous said...

confusion of militia-man Gedeon Kyungu with political leader Gabriel Kyungu? Both are associated with violence but their current status is quite different.

Anonymous said...

Kamarhe has not been in Bas Congo once since the campaign period began, and he probably won't be.

Anonymous said...

Engwete over on his blog is claiming Etienne, on RTLV on Sunday, called for violence on the 8th.

Can others (Rich, others) corroborate this?

If so, Etienne just pulled the nuclear option.


Anonymous said...

Sorry. Forgot the link to Engwete's blog.


Jason Stearns said...

Sorry, this is Gabriel Kyungu wa Kumwanza (presient of UNAFEC), not Gédeon Kyungu, a former Mai-Mai leader.

With regard to Tshisekedi, it unfortunately seems to be true. I have yet to find the link to the whole interview, but thanks to Rich his is an excerpt from another radio station:

Anonymous said...

Etienne's cynical game appears to be working.

If you google "DR Congo elections", all the news pieces in English are about election related violence.

I ofcourse don't know his strategy but since he doesn't want to take the "Tubman option" (as in the current Prez candidate in Liberia who decided to boycott tomorrow's election in that country), the goal here is to cause alot of problems on the street, perhaps a few deaths here and there, which will lead to calls from the international community to chill out, which will embolden the regime to crack down harder, which will embolden UDPS activists to simply keeping serving as cannon-fodder, this will then push the IC to potentially delay the elections or, UDPS hopes, delay them with some transitional relationship with UDPS in government.

Etienne then gets his wish of finally obtaining some power. If he succeeds, it would be a particularly stunning display at skills Etienne has sorely lacked over the years- strategic and tactical acumen.

Again, I cannot be sure of this but if rising the concern in the international press is goal 1, they've succeeded.

The only way to avoid this, if you are a friend of the regime, is to not take UDPS's bait. Well, I have zero confidence in this regime in showing restrain on everything since its very survival is threatened by UPDS's presence- to say the least of poorly trained and partisan provincial officials, police, and security forces. Etienne is counting on a harsh and violent crackdown which the regime, one can be assured, will deliver.

Outside of the regime "playing nice", the only other means to block this cynical strategy is some powerful country- the US, Belgium, China, Angola, etc- calling on the sides to also "play nice" and back it up with harsh demands (sanctions, asset freezes, etc). Given the IC is mostly concerned about Greece right now I highly doubt that will work either.

Things are about to get real interesting in the Congo I believe.


Anonymous said...

Here's the Youtube video of the Etienne call in to RTVL:

It was sent by a minister I work with quite frequently in Gemena. While nearly every minister he works with supports UDPS, from what he can gather few ministers will heed calls to inform congregants who are UPDS partisans to support this. Which, in my view, is a really good thing. How sure am I everyone will feel this way? Not sure at all but its a hopeful sign given this guy's prominence in evangelical circles in the Congo.

I've checked the various fbook Congo sites and it is blowing up everywhere- as Etienne no doubt realized would happen.


Post a Comment