War-torn Africa’s superpower goes to the polls – NRK Urix – Foreign news and documentaries

War-torn Africa’s superpower goes to the polls – NRK Urix – Foreign news and documentaries

-I think he can do it so we can go home. “When he talked about it, I had a smile on my face,” Wetonzi says Nzarama Wemana.

She lives in a refugee camp in Goma in eastern Congo, where she meets a Congolese journalist with whom NRK collaborates.

Witonze Nzarama Wimana became a refugee due to the wars in eastern Congo.

Photo: Musa Swasawa

She was forced to flee by armed groups who committed murder and rape. Life in the camp is difficult, with no access to family-grown food or income opportunities.

But Wimana put her trust in the man she was talking about, Denis Mukwege, a gynecologist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018.

He is one of 25 candidates for today’s presidential election in Congo.

The huge Central African country still lives with the effects of its brutal colonial history. Then the brutal Belgian colonial masters were succeeded by brutal Congolese leaders.

When the country gained independence in 1966, only 16 Congolese had access to higher education. The basic requirements for a functioning state were very poor.

Today, Congo is much more organized, but it is still characterized by poor leadership, war and corruption.

Selection tree Main topic

1. After war comes peace?

Congo is home to one of the world’s most forgotten and longest-running conflicts. Millions are on the run. Kills thousands. The decline continues year after year, and there are several reasons for this.

In Congo, the state does not have a monopoly on military force. Control of land usually meant the opportunity to derive per capita income from the country’s vast mineral resources.

Therefore, eastern Congo in particular is a patchwork of regions where different armed groups have real power.

Conflicts in Kivu

The Kivu Security Tracker monitors the conflict picture in eastern Congo. The 2020 section of this graph shows part of the complex picture in North Kivu and South Kivu provinces. Each color represents an armed group.

Drawing: Kivu security tracking device

During the election campaign, the candidates talked about strengthening the Congolese army, streamlining the fight against rebel groups, and preventing future conflicts.

Neighboring Rwanda is also talked about a lot. Several reports indicate that Rwanda supports the M23 militia, which in recent years has begun widespread activity and carried out attacks on several villages. Rwanda blames itself for providing such support.

There are many signs that Rwanda has had less access to Congo’s minerals since 2018, when Felix Tshisekedi took over as Congo’s president. In recent years, several people with close ties to the regime in Rwanda have been removed from their central positions in Congo.

The background to all the unrest in the border area between the two countries is the Rwandan genocide. A brutal conflict that effectively ended in 1994, but is still alive in eastern Congo. Armed groups of the two ethnic groups attacked each other.

Meanwhile, there are 200 other groups also active, and many others have much greater local influence than the March 23 Movement.

In other words, different solutions are needed to the many different problems that exist, so that peace can become a reality in eastern Congo one day in the future.

2. Corruption

Congo suffers greatly from corruption, which in the future will strike the bones of democratic development, economic development and work for peace.

When the wealthy elite exploit the country’s vast mineral wealth, most others are left in abject poverty. Many look for opportunities elsewhere, and this does not always contribute to the good of society.

On Transparency International’s international corruption index, Congo ranks 166th out of 180 countries.

A document leaked in 2021 showed that corruption had systematically become part of the political system, all the way to the top, under former president Joseph Kabila.

The same leak also showed how some foreign companies are exploiting corruption in Congo, including Chinese companies that made large bank transfers directly to individuals or companies in the family around Kabila.

Supporters of President Felix Tshisekedi chant during an election campaign event.  Many soldiers make sure everything runs smoothly.

Supporters of Felix Tshisekedi cheer as the president takes the stage during an election campaign meeting in Goma, in eastern Congo.

Photo: Agence France-Presse

The current president, Felix Tshisekedi, has gradually turned his back on his predecessor and former partners, but Congo has not moved up the corruption index anyway.

Even if Tshisekedi has trimmed some of the straw that many people had in the closet when he took office, he is also blamed for being a president who is largely grinding his own cake.

3. Lack of jobs and hope for the future

Congo’s crises are intertwined and create a spiral of problems that negatively affect each other. Because with war and corruption, economic development will be poor, which in turn increases the risk of war.

Congo is full of the minerals the world needs to achieve a green transition. But the lack of a system that restores values ​​to people still leads to extreme poverty, few jobs and little hope for the future. There is also poor provision of education, and particularly low trust in the state.

Thus, armed groups have good opportunities to recruit members, while they can provide much-needed jobs. The job can revolve around fighting for the group, so that they can secure access to land, and thus income as well.

Making the Congolese people loyal to the state and society is also a major challenge when the state provides so few services in return, and the flow of information is poor.

The Catholic Church is often more trusted among people than the state, since the church has a strong network, performs various services, and has a better internal information flow than the Congolese state.

Thus, job creation and economic development became recurring themes in the election campaign.

Three favorites and a famous person

Felix Tshisekedi

Incumbent President Felix Tshisekedi greets his supporters ahead of elections in Congo in 2023.

Felix Tshisekedi is the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and hopes to restore confidence.

Photo: Agence France-Presse

He won the elections in 2018. That time he received strong and decisive support from outgoing President Joseph Kabila.

But during the five years that followed, Tshisekedi took over from his predecessor, cutting ties with more and more of those who belonged to Kabila’s regime.

At the same time, Tshisekedi was an outspoken president to the world. He spoke before the French president during a state visit earlier this year.

He is regularly at loggerheads with neighboring President Paul Kagame, who is believed to be supporting rebel groups in eastern Congo. He even compared Hitler to Kagame during one of his campaign speeches.

Being the one in power gives you an advantage in a country like Congo, especially in an election campaign where you have significant resources to attract attention.

Meanwhile, Tshisekedi faces a lot of criticism because in five years he has not been able to stop war, corruption and a wide range of other challenges.

Some critics believe that the president, among other things, was responsible for policies that led to the military attacking civilians, such as when a state of emergency was imposed in two regions in the east of the country in 2021.

Moise Katumbi

Moise Katumbi on the campaign trail ahead of Congo's 2023 presidential elections

Katumbi was banned in previous elections, but is now among the front-runners.

Photo: Agence France-Presse

Congo’s next president may be a millionaire with a Greek Jewish background. It comes from Katanga, which is rich in minerals and rich in mining. He also owns one of the best football teams in Congo, TP Mazembe.

Five years ago he was planning to run, but was effectively banned. Now he is trying again, and is reported to be a strong candidate to win.

As a former governor of Katanga, he has the political credentials to prove it. He particularly bragged about how he had strengthened the infrastructure and school sector in the governorate.

But he also faces criticism, among other things, for not being transparent enough in his dealings.

In addition, his ties to Rwanda were questionable. One of his closest campaign partners is On charges of collaborating with the March 23 MovementWith the aim of harming the president’s election campaign.

Since the M23 movement has ties to Rwanda, these debts have made many people wonder if Katumbi is also cooperating with Rwanda.

In this case, it is natural to think that the small neighboring country would want to put itself in a position to return to a position where it has more influence in Congolese politics.

Martin Violo

Martin Fayulu at a campaign event for the 2023 presidential elections in Congo.

Fayulu is a staunch critic of the president, and hopes for revenge after what he believes was electoral fraud five years ago.

Photo: Reuters

He came in second place in the previous elections when Katumbi was not allowed to run. He was trailing Tshisekedi by only 3.7%, and it is believed that he himself won the election because Tshisekedi cheated.

He received support from several parties, but he did not succeed with debts. However, he repeats it as often as he can, and on Twitter/X calls himself Kongos “President-elect”.

Like many other African politicians, Fayulu has a background in business life, especially in the oil sector. His economic policy revolves around less government control over the country’s economy.

He, like most candidates, believes he is the right candidate to stop corruption. He also wants investment in the country’s army, where soldiers will receive better training, and the number of the army will increase to half a million soldiers to suppress armed groups in the east.

Fayulu considers President Tshisekedi his main opponent, and he said in an interview that there is only one Congolese who has improved in the past five years – and hinted that it was the president himself.

Denis Mukwege

Presidential candidate Denis Mukwege meets his supporters at a campaign event ahead of the 2023 presidential elections.

He is known to be a Peace Prize laureate and gynecologist. Now Denis Mukwege will become president.

Photo: Agence France-Presse

He is not the preferred candidate, and is probably a more popular candidate outside Congo than he is in Congo. But a gynecologist from Bukavu wants to contribute to democracy, and he is running after a signature campaign from his supporters.

Mukwege has shown little desire to reach a settlement with armed groups in eastern Congo, and he will face difficulties.

A gynecologist has performed surgeries on thousands of women survivors of sexual violence and believes a separate criminal court for acts of war should be established in eastern Congo so perpetrators can be punished.

He also wants to strengthen the army, and believes that soldiers should have better training and working conditions. In addition, he wants to boost the agricultural sector to create jobs.

Critics believe Mukwege is one of them The “Western” candidate and Mukwege have much less political experience than his opponents.

Witunzi Nzarama Wimana supports presidential candidate Denis Mukwege.

Wimana hopes that peace will prevail so that she can leave the refugee camp and return to her home.

Photo: Musa Swasawa

And Mukwege in particular was the one who got Wetunzi Nzarama Wimana’s voice.

– We know that the doctor fights for women’s cause. “That’s why I will ask other women to vote for him,” Wetonzi says before she and several other women head to the airport outside Goma, where Denis Mukwege will meet his supporters.


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Jabori Obasanjo

Jabori Obasanjo

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