When Congolese President Joseph Kabila was inaugurated for a second term on 20 December 2011 the fallout from the 28 November elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was ‘situation normal: continued instability’. After Kabila’s main opponent, Etienne Tshisekedi, ‘swore himself in’ on 23 December (Tshisekedi website), there were two men claiming to be president and several other candidates demanding a new ballot. The 2006 elections, the DRC’s first since the Global and Inclusive Agreement (Dialogue Inter-Congolais 2002), were shambolic, but clearly legitimate (UN 2007, Carter Center 2006a, b, c). This was partly due to the fact that the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Monuc) had a stronger presence than its successor, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Monusco). There was also more international attention in 2006, including an EU rapid reaction force. However, many of the issues in the 2011 election – violence, logistical problems and irregularities – were present in the previous one (see, eg, UN 2006; Carter Center 2006a, b, c). There was possibly as much international financial and logistical support as there had been in 2006. There were fewer international observers but more local ones. The main differences relate to context, the structure of international assistance and the lack of a second presidential round. The crisis had been years in the making. More important than diminished engagement in the mechanics of the election was the international community’s sham attention to governance in sub-Saharan Africa and the culture of impunity it has encouraged. The West, unlike China, has failed to appreciate the strategic importance of the DRC. By encouraging regional dictators instead of enthusiastically supporting the rule of law early and often, it tacitly encouraged bad behaviour.
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Categories: Journal of African Elections