Congo’s implausible election
On Sunday, the Democratic Republic of the Congo will hold its first free elections in more than 40 years. International donors have chipped in nearly half a billion dollars to finance the vote – this in a country with only a few hundred miles of paved roads, crippling poverty, little access to health care, and ...
On Sunday, the Democratic Republic of the Congo will hold its first free elections in more than 40 years. International donors have chipped in nearly half a billion dollars to finance the vote - this in a country with only a few hundred miles of paved roads, crippling poverty, little access to health care, and the world's largest U.N. peacekeeping force. But I'm all in favor of freedom, and there's good news out of the country's war-torn east today: three of the main warring militias there have agreed to lay down their arms. Still, the election is a huge logistical challenge: thousands of candidates, rampant intimidation, and the very real possibility of fraud (5 million extra ballots have been printed).
That’s just the election. There’s the other small matter of rebuilding the country’s infrastructure after a devastating civil war that ended in 2002, after killing 4 million people. That war sucked in not just neighboring countries, but tens of thousands of child soldiers, who are now slowly being demobilized. But how do you integrate kids who extorted, murdered, and raped, most because they were forced by elder soldiers, but some because they wanted to?
In a new ForeignPolicy.com exclusive, Paule Bouvier and Pierre Englebert examine the incredible challenges the DRC faces, not just in pulling off this weekend’s election, but in making the democratic experiment stick by securing the country and pulling its devastated population out of poverty. Despite all the international investment and the domestic enthusiasm, it’s unlikely this weekend’s election will deliver a miracle.
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