On June 30, the Democratic Republic of the Congo celebrated its 58th anniversary of independence. Instead of celebrating landmark democratic achievements as a nation, the country faces the unpleasant challenge of multi-layered conflicts including political and ethnic violence. Militarized responses from DR Congo’s armed forces and rebel groups continue to shake its stability.
In December 2016, President Joseph Kabila’s second and last term ended according to Congolese constitution. Elections have been delayed and the president has since remained in office. This has led to countrywide protests from citizens to demand elections. The peaceful protests were met with a lethal response from law enforcement agencies. Both economic and social conditions have deteriorated further.
Humanitarian needs are increasing. DR Congo is already among the world’s poorest countries and is struggling with an outbreak of Ebola. Unfortunately, donor countries are exhausted, and not enough attention is being accorded to this suffering nation.
In January, a United Nations report indicated that 4.5 million people were displaced from their homes, with more than 896,000 people displaced in the Kasai region alone. Since 2016, there have been gruesome attacks, resulting in at least 5,000 deaths in the Kasai region. Women, children and infants face food insecurity and lack of access to quality health care. Many have lost their livelihoods. Currently 7.3 million people are in dire need of life-saving humanitarian assistance.
Elections are scheduled for December 23, 2018. Expectations are high, with people counting down in faith to the deadline. To help attain credible, free and fair elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) supports the work of the Church of Christ in the Congo (ECC) to establish mechanisms for prevention of violence across the country, including election-related violence.
In preparation for the election, this organization and others help to train people to diffuse election-related conflicts. They seek to empower civil society with civic knowledge relating to good governance and electoral rights. They also help form and train electoral monitoring teams. Through initiatives like these, the people of DR Congo are protecting their fundamental right to credible and effective democratic institutions.
Donor countries like the United States must bolster civil society efforts by supporting and promoting a free and fair electoral process. This includes funding for election materials and equipment, as well as strengthening institutions. In addition, support is needed for life-saving humanitarian assistance. As Christians, we have a prophetic mandate to assist our brothers and sisters in need and to support their courageous efforts to create a viable democracy.