Following the death of former Congolese leader Joseph Kabila, the country held an election, leading to its first democratic, peaceful transfer of power in about six decades with the swearing-in of president Félix Tshisekedi.
Initially, Tshisekedi’s reign seemed to imply positive changes to the Democratic Republic of Congo in more ways than one. In his inauguration speech, he vowed to free all those being held as political prisoners in the Congo, to address and end corruption in the government, and to foster the country’s development through adequate management of its mineral reserves.
Many countries around the world, including the United States, have acknowledged the legitimacy of the new regime, despite controversy over the fairness of the election. In Canada, the Global Affairs Department released a statement on Canada’s stance on the issue: “[Canada] expects that the choice expressed by the Congolese people on this occasion will be respected,” and also stated the importance of holding “free, fair, and transparent elections”.
Despite the initial positive outlook, the election controversy has resulted in a violent uprising, with dozens of lives lost, almost 60 injured, and an upwards of 200 people having being arbitrarily arrested within just the following week. According to the Catholic Church, Tshisekedi had, in fact, lost the election, and had participated in rigging the votes. While it is hard to say what truly transpired, it is clear that the lack of transparency and legitimacy of this election has led to a very dangerous situation that may threaten the very concept of democracy.
While Tshisekedi’s rule may have brought light to a country which has had a troubled past riddled with violence and corruption, it remains essential to instil confidence in the electoral system. This is an issue which likely cannot be resolved internally due to conflicts of interests, and as such, it would be wise for the new regime to allow for an inquiry to be conducted by an outside, impartial party — the United Nations General Assembly for example, or perhaps its fellow African Union members.
While it is reasonable for outside states to abstain from involvement in the politics of the DRC — both as a result of the matter of sovereignty and critical perceptions of Western intervention in the developing world — should the political instability in the country continue to grow, the international community may feel inclined to weigh-in on the issue. The situation in the Congo presents a threat to its democratic ideals, as well as the safety of the human rights of the citizens in the nation. World leaders urgently need to encourage the nation to reunite, and offer their support to the Congolese government, allowing for the nation to accept assistance at its own discretion.
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