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Col. Rick Fawcett, serving with the United Nations peacekeeping force in Congosays it’s unclear whether the worst of the post-election violence in the country has passed. Human Rights Watch has reported at least 24 deaths and opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, who declared and inaugurated himself president, says he is effectively under house arrest. Incumbent Joseph Kabila was declared the winner by the Congolese Supreme Court and inaugurated last week; the U.S. State Department has expressed deep disappointment over this turn of events, as the irregularities from November’s election were never fully evaluated. Another contributing factor to doubts over the election is the fact that former rebels were promoted to senior posts in Congo’s military in return for supporting Kabila’s re-election effort.

In the capital city of Kinshasa, electricity was cut off and the food supply was disrupted. According to the New York Times,

[Congo] is last on the 2011 Global Hunger Index, a measure of malnutrition and child nutrition compiled by the International Food Policy Research Institute, and has gotten worse. It was the only country where the food situation dropped from “alarming” to “extremely alarming,” the institute reported this year. Half the country is considered undernourished.

Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson said the United States was Congo’s largest donor with a commitment of over $900 million for peacekeeping, humanitarian and development initiatives in the past fiscal year. Many Congolese activists are now calling for some of this aid to be suspended until credible elections take place.

Photo: telegraph.co.uk

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In the two days leading up to the Democratic Republic of Congo’s legislative and presidential elections on November 28, electoral violence left at least 18 civilians dead and 100 seriously wounded. Analysts further predicted election-related violence would follow, and in the two weeks since, these predictions have unfortunately been realized.

Eleven candidates ran for president, including incumbent President Joseph Kabila. Kabila originally came to power in 2001, after his father’s assassination, and was democratically elected in 2006. Currently he is an unpopular figure, especially in western Congo. Eastern Congolese voters are also disillusioned with Kabila’s rule, as he has failed to deliver on his 2006 promises of greater stability and improved infrastructure. As such, many voters were unconvinced that Kabila could win fairly. Moreover, the voting process was widely perceived as fraudulent and irregular.

According to the Carter Center:

“[We find] the provisional presidential election results announced by the Independent National Election Commission (CENI) on Dec. 9 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to lack credibility. CENI results point to the re-election of incumbent President Joseph Kabila with 49 percent of the vote followed by Etienne Tshisekedi with 32 percent and Vital Kamerhe with 7.7 percent.  Voter turnout was 58 percent.

[. . .] the quality and integrity of the vote tabulation process has varied across the country, ranging from the proper application of procedures to serious irregularities, including the loss of nearly 2,000 polling station results in Kinshasa . . . it is also evident that multiple locations, notably several Katanga province constituencies, reported impossibly high rates of 99 to 100 percent voter turnout with all, or nearly all, votes going to incumbent President Joseph Kabila. These and other observations point to mismanagement of the results process and compromise the integrity of the presidential election.”

Anti-riot policemen and members of the elite presidential guard were deployed into the streets of Kinshasa to confront Tshisekedi’s supporters in the immediate aftermath of the election. It has now been confirmed that police killed four people in post-election violence, three of whom were looters and one who was hit by a stray bullet. Human Rights Watch received reports not only of shootings, but of abductions as well. The country’s last civil war, which claimed approximately 6 million lives, ended in 2003. The United Nations’ Human Development Index—the indicators of which are health, education, income, inequality, poverty, gender, and sustainability—ranks the DRC last out of 187 countries. Given these conditions and the DRC’s recent history, it is widely believed that this controversy could escalate into yet another civil war.

Photo: globalpost.com

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