Commander Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka, leader of the Congolese rebel group Mai Mai, is wanted by the Congolese government for ordering his militia to join an attack on a group of villages in Walikale, where the fighters gang-raped at least 387 women, men, girls and boys in 2010. He is also one of approximately 19,000 candidates for Congo’s National Assembly, the lower and main chamber of Congo’s Parliament. Sheka, listed as a “trader” on Congo’s election Web site, is one of 65 running in Walikale. Congolese authorities tried to arrest Sheka in July, but he escaped. In September, he registered as an independent candidate for the National Assembly. According to Congolese law, Sheka would be immune from prosecution if elected.
Congo’s election, scheduled for November 28th, includes a number of candidates accused of being criminals. One presidential candidate, Antipas Mbusa Nyamwisi, is a former rebel leader whose militia carried out a massacre at a hospital and the surrounding area in 2002 during the country’s civil war. The fighters slaughtered any patient suspected to be from the Hema and Bira groups, killing more than 1,000, according to Human Rights Watch. After the war, Nyamwisi became Congo’s minister of regional cooperation. Another candidate is François-Joseph Nzanga Mobutu, the son of the former dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who was overthrown in 1997.
The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO) said in a press release earlier this week that some political leaders have been using inflammatory language to incite people to violence. It stressed that such conduct is a violation of the country’s electoral law and international electoral standards. According to the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, “Regional and local rebel groups…remain active in several areas, leading to widespread displacement, sexual violence, murder and other forms of human rights abuses against Congolese civilians. The central government…has been unable to restore authority in several provinces and is itself involved in various serious human rights violations. The poorly-trained national army (FARDC) and police lack the capacity and the budget to protect the election process. Furthermore, they have themselves been in involved in abuses. Made up of former rebel groups and Congolese soldiers, FARDC is far from politically neutral and remains divided despite various integration efforts.”