News / 21 December 2018, 12:30pm / Mphathi Nxumalo
Durban -With elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo delayed yet again, the spectre of electoral violence looms large, say refugees from the country, who live in Durban.
The DRC’s national election body, the Independent National Electoral Commission, said elections scheduled for this weekend would be postponed by a week.
It is the latest in a string of postponements besetting the country since 2016, when elections were expected to be held.
Previous postponements led to violent flare ups, with many people killed in protests.
Tensions in the country have been high in the build-up to the elections.
According to the UN, this would be the first democratic transfer of power since 1960, and the first change in presidency since 2001, when Joseph Kabila took power after the assassination of his father, Laurent-Désiré.
Chairperson of African Solidarity Network in Durban, Daniel Dunia said violence was expected after the elections.
He said other problems were that the opposition was divided, and that the electoral body did not do proper work on the ground to prepare for the elections.
The violence could lead to more refugees fleeing the country, he said.
Dr Lubna Nadvi, a political scientist at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said one would expect Kabila to try to continue exerting influence on the outcome of the election so that he could keep control of political events in the country.
“In that sense the elections could not be considered to be totally free and fair as he is expected to try and influence the process so that his preferred candidate will win.
“There has also been ongoing pre-election violence for some time now, with opposition supporters clashing with ruling party supporters, resulting in injuries. This does not bode well for peaceful elections, or for any kind of conducive climate for elections to take place,” she said.
Nadvi said it was welcomed that a long-serving ruler like Kabila was not standing for re-election, and that there was now a possibility of new leadership in the country.
This was especially important as many leaders on the continent were inclined to cling to power for decades.
“I think the people of the DRC have been looking forward to having the opportunity to have their say, and so will hopefully turn out at the polls in numbers,” she said.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) had a big role to play in monitoring the elections, especially since it was a pivotal regional structure, she said.
A peaceful and successful election would ensure that the SADC continued to be an economically and politically stable region, said Nadvi.