With DRC’s Kabila backing substitute candidate this year, time to review international observation experience from 2011 vote

[Updated Aug 9]

The Democratic Republic of Congo stands out as a wealthy country with mostly very poor voters, a fairly poor government, extremely poor governance, high corruption, pervasive political violence, a current humanitarian crisis on a Yemani scale and as a “honeypot” for some of the worst people in the world.

The announcement, at the filing deadline, that term-limited incumbent president Joseph Kabila would not be his faction’s candidate in the upcoming national elections (legally due last year) has generated some relief. See “Joseph Kabila, Congo strongman, will step down after 17 years in power” in the New York Times.

In Congress, Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he approved of Mr. Kabila’s decision — “after 17 dark and bloody years” — to step down.

“Now, deadly government crackdowns must stop so the Congolese people can choose their next president in free, fair and transparent elections,” Mr. Royce said. “Any credible election will allow opposition candidates to run campaigns free from legal harassment, intimidation and physical harm.”

A decent election in December would be a huge “win” for Congolese and for international democracy advocates but sobriety is in order as to whether that becomes a realistic possiblity as the much-delayed date approaches.

At the time of the last election in 2011, Africa democratizers were buoyed by an understood success story in Ghana, the hope of an “Arab Spring”, the lull of violence in Iraq and more generally encouraging environment. As explained in my posts from that time, the U.S.- funded International Observation Mission (conducted by the Carter Center) found the election to fall short of adequacy by the applicable international standards and said so explicitly.

Initially standing up to Kabila over the failures of his alleged re-election and pushing for them to be addressed appeared to be U.S. policy.  If so, we apparently changed our mind for some reason.  Tolerating a bad election then leaves us in a more difficult position with seven years of water under that bridge.  The U.S. has stepped up recently to pressure Kabila to schedule the election, allow opposition and stand down himself.

In this vein, we need to be careful, and transparent, as things proceed to continue to evaluate realistically what is feasible and where we are really able and willing to assist.  In particular, the decision to initiate and fund one or more Election Observation Missions for a vote in these circumstances should involve serious soul-searching at the State Department (and/or USAID).

On the last election:

DRC: “We have to debunk the idea that it is peace versus transparent elections. The idea that lousy elections are going to bring piece is madness.”

Carter Center calls it as they see it in DRC

U.S. and other Weatern donors support review of election irregularities in DRC — offer technical assistance

State Department to Kabila on DRC Presidential Election: “Nevermind”?

Tanzania Update

Reuters: “Tension mounts in Tanzania over delayed vote”:

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) – Tanzanian police used teargas to disperse opposition supporters in the commercial capital on Monday as tension rose due to delays in releasing the results of Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

The protesters in Dar es Salaam were angry at the outcome of a council election run alongside Sunday’s national votes that are expected to give President Jakaya Kikwete another five years at the helm of east Africa’s second largest economy.

While opinion polls show his lead narrowed as his main opponent Willibrod Slaa of the Chadema party campaigned hard on an anti-corruption platform, analysts predict Kikwete’s pledge to keep fighting poverty should hand him a final term.

Members of the opposition said the delays were in areas where their candidates were likely to win parliamentary seats.

“The situation is tense … I have received reports that police have used teargas in Mwanza, Arusha and Dar es Salaam. People are restless because they want the results to be made public,” said Mwesiga Baregu, Chadema campaign manager.

“The situation is bad. We have reached a point where we might see bloodshed, just like what happened in Kenya when the election results were delayed.”

Violence erupted after Kenya’s 2007 election following delays in releasing results and accusations that the incumbent Mwai Kibkai had stolen the vote.


Police said they used water cannon and teargas to disperse the crowds outside a polling station in Dar es Salaam.

“Riot police were called in after crowds burnt tyres on the road and damaged at least one vehicle at Tandika area in Dar es Salaam,” Temeke Regional Police Commander David Miseme told reporters on Monday.

“At least 15 people were arrested. No injuries have been reported so far.”

Tanzania’s electoral authorities said they would issue more results on Tuesday after a handful were released giving Kikwete an early lead.

International observers said the poll was well-organised and well-conducted on the whole, but the East African Community’s election observer mission to Tanzania said it too was concerned by the delays in releasing of the poll results.

“It is very slow compared to other East African countries. It is taking too long, we don’t know the reasons,” Abdul Karim Harelimana, head of the EAC election observer mission to Tanzania told Reuters in Dar es Salaam.

Kikwete led with 66.94 percent of the vote while Slaa garnered 17.36 percent in 10 of the 239 constituencies where results have been released.

The results covered constituencies with a combined total of less than 60,000 votes among 19.6 million registered voters.

Election Day in Tanzania [updated Nov. 1-“the best in Africa”]

Uchaguzi citizen monitoring/mapping is up and running.

EU Election Observation Mission Tanzania

Update–Nov. 1: “EU Interim Observers’ Report Ready Tuesday” at AllAfrica.com from the Tanzanian Daily News

Arusha — THE European Union Election Observation Mission will release an interim report on the 2010 Tanzanian General Elections, next Tuesday.

“The preliminary statement on the mission’s findings will be issued on Tuesday from 11.00 am during a press conference that I am to conduct at the Movenpick Hotel in Dar-es- Salaam,” said the Chief Observer, Mr David Martin.

Speaking in Arusha, Mr Martin who was accompanied by long term observer Mr Andreas Jordan said his team has met local party leaders here, community members and have even visited rural villages but he intends to observe the actual voting process in Dar es Salaam before compiling the initial report.

“The provisional report is expected to be a seven-page manual whose final details are to be added on Monday after the polls,but the real and ultimate comprehensive election report is due to be ready in two months time, possibly early 2011,” he said.

“And don’t expect the term ‘Free and Fair’ anywhere within the soon to be publicized EU-EOM reports. We usually do not use such words,” said Mr Martin, adding that the way they conduct their mission is extremely different from other international observers.

However, the EU Chief Observer said from what his team has seen so far, Tanzania’s poll conduct should be the best in Africa.

“Tanzania must go down the record as an exemplary country compared to other states on the continent in the way her people, political parties and politicians conduct their campaigns as well as how they brace themselves for the national elections in general,” praised Mr Martin.

“Having worked around the globe, different continents and states, we have amassed enough experience,” said the EU-EOM chief, adding that in contrast to other countries on the continent, he can officially comment that Tanzania is the best in Africa.

But while at that, he pointed out that the conduct here was still far from being perfect, only better than all other African countries they have ever worked with.

“International Election Observers Descend on Dar Es Salaam” at AllAfrica.com from the Tanzanian Daily News:

The number of local monitors is around 8,000, according to NEC. Election monitoring, among other things, is aimed at putting to test integrity and credibility of the country’s electoral process, after re-introduction of multiparty democracy in 1992. The primary objective of observers is to assess the conduct of an election process on the basis of national legislation, regional and international standards.

Foreign observer mission in the country include those from the European Union (EU), African Union (AU), Southern African Development Community (SADC), East African Community (EAC) and Japan. Most of the groups say that they have a common mission of ensuring that the country undertakes free and fair elections.The chairman of EAC observers involving 18 people, Mr Reuben Oyondi, told reporters earlier this week that they have planned to visit several areas to monitor the preparations for the polls

Washingtonpost: Sudan prez threatens to expel election observers

Sudan prez threatens to expel election observers

CAIRO — Sudan’s president threatened Monday to expel foreign observers over their recommendations to delay the country’s first multiparty elections in decades due in April.