- Title: Congolese cling to election hopes, some fear the worst,
- Date: 7th June 2017
- Summary: ***WARNING CONTAINS FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY*** SCREEN SHOWING KABILA'S PICTURE KABILA SMILING AS HE LOOKS INTO CAMERA
- Embargoed: 21st June 2017 13:17
- Keywords: Joseph Kabila Elections Politics Voter registration
- Location: KINSHASA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
- City: KINSHASA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
- Country: Congo, Democratic Republic of
- Topics: Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA0026KA3HAV
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: EDIT CONTAINS 4:3 MATERIAL
Voters in the Democratic Republic of Congo are flocking to various sites in Kinshasa to register for the next presidential elections that will replace long-serving President Joseph Kabila.
Despite deep scepticism that the presidential poll will take place on time, many say they wanted to make sure they'd be able to help end two decades of Kabila family rule atop Africa's top copper producer.
However, the electoral commission says elections could again be postponed due to delays registering millions of voters.
"The registration went well, and things are going well for the elections to take place on time so that we can have a new government," said one Kinshasa resident, Maurice Iyemba.
"With everything taking place so late, and we only have a little time left, I really don't think that the elections will take place in 2017. And looking what politicians have been saying, I really doubt that there will be elections at the end of the year," said another Kinshasa resident, Mathieu Fazili.
"With everything that's been going on in Congo, looking at the way things have been going here, it will really be a miracle if elections take place come December 31st 2017. It would really be a miracle," added Arolle Kalala.
As recently as December, when Kabila refused to step down at the end of his constitutional mandate, many Congolese hoped popular protests could quickly force him from power.
Kabila has weathered all challenges so far, maintaining a firm grip over the security forces that brutally suppressed anti-government protests last year and co-opting key opponents with posts in a new government.
But the current stalemate carries other consequences, analysts say, namely prolonged socio-economic and security crises that are already deterring investment, feeding popular anger and risking a return to the country's darkest chapters.
Kabila insists that he has no desire to stay on indefinitely, but his hold on power has drawn comparisons to former president Mobutu Sese Seko's final years in the 1990s.
His authority undermined by mounting domestic opposition and souring relations with former Cold War allies, Mobutu remained for seven more years, cycling through 11 prime ministers in a masterclass of divide-and-conquer rule.
Yet with state institutions and the economy crumbling, he was swept aside by a Rwandan and Ugandan-backed invasion that presaged a 1998-2003 conflict now known as "Africa's World War".
Kin Kiey Mulumba, a close Kabila ally and former spokesman for Mobutu, downplayed the similarities.
"Mobutu was forced to leave power because of a rebellion that was supported by neighbouring countries. President Kabila Kabila has the support of leaders in the region and the support of the international community," he said.
But analysts say the support Kabila once enjoyed in the region is being tested.
Traditional allies like neighbouring Angola continue to publicly back him but have expressed growing alarm about insecurity, particularly fighting in central Congo's Kasai region that has sent over 20,000 refugees fleeing into northern Angola in recent months.
Congo's main opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), whose flag bearer Etienne Tshisekedi died in February leaving behind a fractured opposition, says the registration process is one step in the right direction.
"We have been saying since the month of March that the Secretary General of UDPS had signed a memo asking all the supporters, wherever they may be to register to vote. UDPS also supports the electoral commission. The electoral commission is not just something for the ruling majority. The electoral commission is also something that concerns us. The UDPS is a political party that fights against non-violence and that is preparing to win the elections. So we have to be part of the enrolment process and the rest will come later," said UDPS spokesperson, Augustin Kabuya.
The European Union and United States both slapped sanctions on top Congolese officials last week who they say have committed human rights abuses and impeded progress toward elections.
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