Elections in DRC
Election campaigning for both presidential and parliamentary elections began in the Democratic Republic of Congo on 28 October. Polls are due to take place on 28 November.
Eleven candidates are vying for the presidency. President Joseph Kabila is favorite to be re-elected despite opposition from Etinenne Tshisekedi. The opposition is suffering from a lack of funds.
Planning for the presidential and parliamentary elections has been dogged by logistical problems and spiraling costs. More than 180,000 ballot boxes have yet to arrive from China and ballot papers are still being printed in South Africa.
Many people doubt polls will happen on time. The leading opposition candidate Etienne Tshisekedi has said he will not accept a delay.
Many observers and diplomats fear that staging the votes separately would hand a landslide victory to the new president when parliamentary polls are held.
Pre-electoral violence is on the rise, according to local and international NGOs.
The people of Goma, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, love Vital Kamerhe, a presidential hopeful. Even heavy rain did not prevent thousands of people assembling at the airport, in the streets, and at the stadium to meet the presidential candidate. Kamerhe was carried from airport to the stadium in a palanquin like a triumphant king.
By Anneke Verbraeke in Goma
Vital Kamerhe's bodyguards and the police had a hard time keeping his fans at a distance. Again and again people tried to break through the cordon to get close to Kamerhe. And when he descended from his chair to walk the last 400 meters to the stadium the crown engulfed him.
In the stadium the crowd cheered. He said what they hoped he would say: he would bring them peace, security and food. The crowd roared when he told them the incumbent president, Laurent Kabila, would not stand a chance. He compared himself with former French president Charles de Gaulle: a warrior in wartime and the man who brought prosperity to France after the Second World War.
Kamerhe then turned his attentions to corruption. He gave the example of about the group of ‘businessmen’ who paid high interests on saving accounts, but after a while took the millions and ran, leaving the poor even poorer. This is an important issue in Goma. And Kabila –their hero of the previous elections in 2006- was not forgiven when he did not breathe a word about it in his 15-minute speech in Goma a few days earlier.
In a conversation, later that night in his hotel, Kamerhe disclosed his admiration for another hero: the former president Lula of Brazil. Lula was born in a poor peasant family, and he also brought Brazil economic prosperity.
Outside the hotel, fans waited patiently. Hoping to catch a glimpse of their hero. Inside hotel Cap Kivu, volunteers, important party members and his campaign team discussed the jubilant reception of Kamerhe. They discussed the difference between the reception of president Joseph Kabila and Etienne Tshikedi, who were campaigning a few days earlier in Goma. Only a few hundred had gathered for Kabila, and a few more for Tshisekedi.
Kamerhe has the majority of North and South Kivu, two provinces in Goma, behind him. However, if the final results are different, many in Kamerhe’s campaign team fear that the east of the country will explode.