Magazine article New African

Can Elections Herald a New Dawn for DR Congo?

Magazine article New African

Can Elections Herald a New Dawn for DR Congo?

Article excerpt

The Democratic Republic of Congo is shaping up for its first presidential elections in over forty years. But for a nation emerging from the ashes of a tumultuous five-year war, which indirectly claimed the lives of over 3.5 million people, the task at hand for the voting to be a success is immense. Despite all the warring sides signing a peace agreement in December 2002, the supposed integration of troops from the various groups and movements into a national army has not materialised. Rather, sporadic fighting and instability continues to persist in the country's volatile and mineral-rich eastern regions, bringing into serious doubt the ability of elections to be held as scheduled on 30 June. Instead, the possibility of at least a six-month delay now looks likely. Combined with a fragile infrastructure to deal with the electoral process in a country the size of Western Europe, much work still needs to be done. In this exclusive interview, New African's Stuart Price spoke to one of DR Congo's four vice-presidents, the leader of the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD), Azarias Ruberwa, in London in December, about the elections, security and DR Congo's future prospects.



NA: How have you found the transition from rebel leader of RCD Goma to politician over the last year and a half?

AR: I have found the whole experience very interesting because it has been a true cohabitation, a sharing of power of many political forces. Now it is truly a democratic movement where debate is present and we are having to come up with decisions following general consensus. So this has been a very enriching experience that I have admired with its challenges and building of trust.

NA: How would you describe your working relationship with President Joseph Kabila and your counterparts such as Jean Pierre Bemba?

AR: Globally our relationships are good. It is true that at a certain time we have known our ups and downs and that in August the RCD, my political party and a component of the "transition", decided to withdraw from its institutional participation. There were things which we found abnormal in the transition, notably with issues such as the forming of an army and a police force. We were unhappy that too little steps were being taken and that as a result, we would not be able to meet some of the deadlines we had set ourselves, such as the elections. Since then there has been a marked effort and there seems to be a stronger will and realisation, especially now that we have the backing of the international community. We have been slowed down, and this lost time cannot be recuperated, but we see today a dynamism that shows our message has got across.

On another level, we also said that we could not use the transition as a pretext not to act to improve the plight of our people be it in the fields of education or health. Even if we are in the transition period, let us rid ourselves of corruption, let us show good governance, and let us act to fix the social problems of our people. We are happy that our complaints were generally acknowledged and that two months later we are back on track.

One can never foresee a transition without problems and you will get to crossroads where not everyone will get along on certain issues, be it with President Kabila or Vice President Jean Pierre Bemba, but thanks to this dynamism and this will to cohabit and to come to a consensus we have managed to overcome many problems, and that is why we have needed one-and-a-half years of transition. I hope that the future will be better and more successful than the past.

NA: Between now and the scheduled June 2005 elections what preparations and provisions for voter registration and population census have already taken place and what is still to be implemented?

AR: In terms of the electoral process, many things have already been put in place. As a government we have put forward laws to the national assembly which they have put through, and adopted laws which were needed to enable successful elections, laws on political parties, on the armed forces, on nationalities, and on a census. …

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