(GIN) – In a country that suffered 30 years under the boot of a brutal dictator, a last minute power grab by the current President, Joseph Kabila, to stay beyond the two term legal limit, has ignited a firestorm in the population.
An eleventh hour deal with the opposition in December gave Kabila till the end of 2017 to hold elections and appoint a prime minister from the main opposition bloc to oversee the transition.
Even then, however, many doubted that Kabila would keep his part of the deal. Now, with no progress on the power sharing arrangement as required, anger is mounting and a heavy police presence is casting a threatening shadow.
In the DRC’s central provinces, fighting erupted between anti-Kabila and government forces last August when Kamwina Nsapu, a tribal chief and militia leader opposed to Kabila was killed by government forces. Since then, dozens of mass graves have been discovered – one estimate puts the number of dead at 400.
“We saw arms and legs. There were … people who were entirely exposed because they hadn’t been buried well,” said one man who found the mass grave last month with fellow farmers.
Last month, two foreign UN experts and their interpreter investigating rights violations were kidnapped, tortured and killed in Kasai-Central.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Niki Haley, slammed U.N. aid to the Kabila government which was “inflicting predatory behavior against its own people… We should have the decency and common sense to end this.”
Despite mounting unrest, the U.N.’s Security Council last week voted to cut the peacekeeping mission from almost 20,000 to just over 16,000 and denied a request for two additional police units.
Meanwhile, members of the Southern African Development Community urged the Kabila government to allow peaceful voting as promised.
“Security concerns shouldn’t again this time be used by the government and other political actors in Kinshasa to renege or delay the political commitment arrived on the 31st of December last year,” said Tanzania’s Foreign Minister Augustine Mahiga. “In this regard we believe (U.N. peacekeeping force) Monusco will have a special responsibility in securing a political space to permit free, fair and peaceful elections.”
“The logistics of organizing elections in the DRC are daunting indeed,” he said, adding the hope that the international community would support the Congolese electoral commission in the registration of voters and organizing countrywide elections.
A SADC ministerial mission is expected to visit the DRC in two weeks.