The Democratic Republic of the Congo embarks on a pivotal month-long election campaign, commencing with 26 presidential candidates vying for office amidst a backdrop of heightened political tension and unrest in the country’s eastern territories.
With 44 million registered voters, a significant portion of the nearly 100 million-strong population, set to cast their votes on December 20, the elections will not only elect a president but also determine representatives for legislative and local bodies. This occurs in a nation rich in resources but marred by persistent conflict and widespread corruption.
The “pre-campaign” phase has seen President Felix Tshisekedi engaging in numerous public appearances while his allies champion his track record. The official launch of the campaign permits large-scale rallies, media engagements, extensive advertising, and the distribution of campaign materials.
President Tshisekedi inaugurated the campaign with a rally at Kinshasa’s Martyrs stadium, while one of his primary rivals, Martin Fayulu, addressed supporters in a nearby province.
The electoral landscape boasts an unprecedented 25,832 candidates for legislative positions, 44,110 for provincial bodies, and 31,234 for municipal councils, as stated by the Electoral Commission (Ceni). However, challenges persist in organizing voting across the vast 2.3 million square kilometers of the country amidst limited infrastructure.
Political analyst Tresor Kibangula highlighted the discrepancy between the political eagerness to adhere to the electoral calendar and concerns regarding technical feasibility.
In the midst of this, the country’s eastern region, plagued by conflict for decades, continues to witness upheaval. Recent clashes involving the M23 group, supported by Rwanda, have disrupted Nord Kivu province. These disturbances raise concerns about the feasibility of conducting elections in the affected territories and the potential threat posed to the entire process if the provincial capital, Goma, falls to rebels.
President Tshisekedi, prioritizing a return to calm and focusing on service improvement and economic development, remains confident that Goma will not succumb to M23 control.
Amidst the array of opposition candidates, including Fayulu, Moise Katumbi, Denis Mukwege, and former prime ministers, concerns about potential electoral fraud loom large. While Tshisekedi is seen as the frontrunner, discussions among opposition groups in South Africa regarding a unified candidacy could potentially shift the dynamics.
As the nation prepares for this crucial electoral period, citizens exhibit mixed sentiments about the electoral process, ranging from optimism about exercising their voting rights to disillusionment stemming from previous allegations of fraud.
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