In 2006 the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) held its first multiparty legislative and presidential elections in more than 40 years. Although not without flaws these elections were seen by international observers as acceptably fair. They were also designed as a major milestone on the road to peace in a country that has been torn apart by civil war. The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Congo and the multi-donor election support that brought about these elections were both the largest and most expensive ever undertaken by the UN. The article poses two questions. One is, is democracy at hand in the DRC? The other is, have elections helped to bring peace? The answer to the first is ‘Yes’, but only if the term is defined narrowly to mean that multiple parties compete for power and that there is some marginal chance that the prime ministership might move to the opposition in 2011. If the question is rooted in a deeper understanding of democracy as based on the rule of law, protection for the political rights of minorities, a vigorous press, and, above all else, responsiveness of political leadership to the wishes of the citizenry, much is still lacking in the Congo. In most respects Congolese political life seems to be remarkably lacking in accountability. The answer to the second is cautiously positive. The number of warring groups in the DRC has been reduced and the elections gave President Kabila and his international interlocutors the legitimacy they needed to negotiate with Rwanda for the removal of the threat posed to the eastern DRC by General Nkunda.
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Categories: Journal of African Elections