Voting in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) against all odds: An account of the 30 December 2018 elections in one of the polling centres

Author: Trésor Makunya
Doctoral Candidate & Academic Associate, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

The presidential and legislative elections at both national and provincial level that Congolese including those living in the diaspora have been waiting for almost two years finally and against all odds, took place on Sunday 30 December 2018. Although elections are always regarded as part of the DNA of a democratic state, these elections were particularly of utmost importance because, if properly conducted, it is expected that they mark the first peaceful alternation of presidential power.[1] Since 2015 when the incumbent president Joseph Kabila demonstrated his desire to maintain his grip on power, many young people, most of whom were from prodemocracy groups, have been killed through excessive use of force by law enforcement officers, arrested or jailed when they protested to urge President Kabila to abide by Article 70 of the 2006 DRC Constitution that sets a  maximum two presidential terms and to finance the electoral commission so as national elections may take place in December 2016. Since then, President Kabila has been enjoying a de facto third-presidential term, just like members of the national assembly whose five years-term has been prolonged for two years now. Equally surprising was the fact that elections of governors, of senators and members of provincial assemblies were yet to be organised since respectively 2007 and 2006. Such an unthinkable prolongment had rendered provincial assemblies and the senate illegitimate in the eyes of voters although they had continued to enjoy a semblance of legality. This is the background against which around 39 million Congolese woke up (or were expected to wake up) early that morning and go overwhelmingly to polling stations.

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