The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has entered the final stage of its transition. The official 15-day campaign period for the 29 October run-off elections began on 13 October.Â Â
The Great Lakes Centre for Strategic Studies (GLCSS) had, in its previous analysis, predicted that the presidential candidates would not use the same campaign techniques as those used in the first round. Previously, the time factor had influenced the choice of the techniques to be used by the contenders. However, GLCSS does not expect the candidates to travel countrywide as they did in the first round.
GLCSS considers the recent confirmation by both Kabila and Bembaâ€™ camps that there will be a two hour radio -televised debate on 26 October as one of the new techniques adapted to reach out to as many voters as possible without moving from Kinshasa. The Congolese Media High Authority (HAM) called on the Congolese media, particularly the Congolese National Radio and Television (RTNC) to ensure equal treatment of the two candidates. However, Kabilaâ€™s camp fears that the debate would result into a war of words while Bembaâ€™s camp encourages Kabilaâ€™s camp not to fear the debate. However, GLCSS does not believe the debate will change a lot in the minds of Congolese voters.Â Â Â
Nonetheless, GLCSS believes the media will be the most used method to convey the candidatesâ€™ messages to the voters. In addition, the newly elected parliamentarians are expected to travel countrywide campaigning for their respective candidates.
So far, Kabilaâ€™s Alliance for the Presidential Majority (AMP) is favored to win in the remaining polls including the presidential, provincial and local elections. This is confirmed by the Allianceâ€™s success in securing Antoine Gizenga and Nzanga Mobutuâ€™s support. Having gained the parliamentarian majority, the premiership and the right to form the government, AMP is likely to increase the votes of its candidate from the party supporters and other individuals looking forward for posts in the upcoming Palu-led government. In addition it is without a doubt, in the GLCSS opinion, that the AMP will gain most of the governors and senators because it is more likely to win the majority of the provincial assembly members who are to vote for the senators and governors.
Some opposition parties said they would not support either candidate. Vice-President Azarias Ruberwa said his party, the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) which gathered 15 seats in the parliament, will support neither Kabila nor Bemba in the run-off. He, however, stressed that the supporters of his RCD have rights to participate in the elections. Etienne Tshisekediâ€™s UDPS has officially said it would not support either candidate in the run-off.
However, some reports indicate that some of its cadres like Gaston Dindo and Ferna Kama have reportedly called on UDPS supporters to support Jean-Pierre Bemba. GLCSS would not be surprised if some UDPS supporters vote for Bemba because this also happened in the first round especially in Kinshasa; therefore GLCSS expects many UDPS members to vote for Bemba.
Meanwhile, army redeployments continue while other armed groups claim they want to join the regular army. GLCSS has highlighted the DRC military situation in its previous analysis. On 9 October, the FARDC command deployed the retrained 13th Brigade in the lawless Ituri District of Province Orientale located in the northeastern DRC. The 4,000-man brigade was expected to replace the untrained 811th Brigade, which is set to join the retraining program at Nyaleke, an army training centre located in Beni District of North Kivu province.
GLCSS military sources reported that some 150 elements of the same retrained brigade preceded their comrades in Ituri two weeks earlier to reinforce the navy units of the FARDC deployed at Kasenyi and Mahagi on the shores of Lake Albert, respectively at 60 and 250 km away from Bunia, the capital town of Ituri.
Furthermore, two militia leaders Peter Karim and M. Ngudjoro were reportedly appointed senior officers in the FARDC. Peter Karim headed the Ituri Patriotic Resistance Forces (FPRDI) while Ngudjolo led the Congolese Revolutionary Movement (MRC). Their appointment came on 10 October after 26 FPRI fighters were killed when they attacked government troops on 8 October.
According to the DRC Defence Minister Adolphe Onusumba eight other fighters from these groups have also been commissioned into the regular army. He further indicated that the appointments honored a written agreement by the DRC government for the release of seven Nepalese United Nations peacekeeping troops at the end of May, which had been held by these militias for five weeks.Â Â
Â However, there have been criticisms of the former militia leaders joining the FARDC. A Bunia-based human-rights body, Justice Plus, criticized the appointments saying pointing out that the militias are being rewarded for their human rights abuses and killings.Â The civil society in Ituri said the appointments are meaningless unless they were also granted amnesty, and they stressed that the former militia leaders should be held accountable for war crimes they committed against civilians.
In North Kivu province, dissident Congolese general Laurent Nkunda continues to confirm his readiness to negotiate with the future DRC president.Â GLCSS does not expect Nkundaâ€™s troops to disrupt the run-off elections but believes his case needs attention from the Congolese government and international community. Â
In summary, GLCSS expects the DRC transition to end as scheduled. The presence of MONUC and EUFOR added to the agreement reached by Bemba and Kabila to canton their troops, are likely to prevent the increase of violence before and after the elections. Also, the regional efforts to support the run-off will contribute to a completion of the final stage of the electoral process. This is supported by GLCSS diplomatic sources who reported the possibility that Foreign and Defence Ministers of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) will meet in Kinshasa between 19 and 20 October to drum up support for the run-off elections.Â
However, both the international and regional efforts should be aligned in their agreement to find a solution to the foreign militias including the FDLR and the LRA still operating in the DRC. GLCSS believes this solution is of paramount importance to the stability of the Great Lakes Region.
William Church is director of the Great Lakes Centre for Strategic Studies, a London-based think tank with offices in Central and East Africa. You may contact William Church at firstname.lastname@example.org. GLCSS trains African journalists, offers an on-site internship to foreign African studies students, and manages an exchange program with journalists from the United Kingdom, the United States and Europe.