Head Heeb has an important post expressing skepticism about the DRC elections. He points out that Etienne Tshisekedi’s party, the largest opposition party, was disqualified for running, and that several of the political parties running are, in fact, militias. This adds an especially ominous note to Jean-Pierre Bemba’s claims of victory – Bemba is a former rebel leader whose supporters are well armed and could wreak havoc if Bemba refused to accept an electoral defeat. The UN’s just-extended arms embargo is a good step, but the borders of the DRC are so porous, it’s not hard to understand how weaponry finds its way in… exactly the same way diamonds and coltan find their way out.
Whoever ends up running the DRC will have numerous long-standing conflicts to help settle. One of the most brutal has been in Katanga, president Kabila’s home province. Katanga’s mines, when they were fully operational, provided the majority of Congo’s income. Tensions between Luba, economic migrants who came to the province, and native Katangans have led to the establishment of militias, including the notorious Mai-Mai, who Kabila backed against Rwandan rebels. The militias and the natgional army have been fighting each other, and brutually abusing the civilian population. Human Rights Watch has a photo series from Katanga which helps give some background to an area that’s recently been called “The Triangle of Death” by those unfortunate enough to live there.
As in Liberia, winning an election may be comething of a booby prize – the winner is awarded a set of near-impossible, intractible problems. So far, Johnson-Sirleaf has some early succeses to celebrate, including the re-establishment of electricity to Monrovia for the first time in 14 years. On the other hand, someone lit her office on fire hours afterwards, in what is believed to be arson. It takes a very brave woman to take on the challenges of Liberia – it will take someone at least as brave to lead the DRC forward.