Advancing a Free Society

A Crisis in the Congo

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

These days, nowhere are crises more predictable than in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And yet, when they unfold as anticipated, Western policymakers and diplomats always seem caught off guard -- raising questions about the competence, willingness, and commitment of the Kinshasa-based diplomatic corps and the United Nations mission to discharge their responsibilities.

Nothing underscores the apathy and inconsistency that characterize Western diplomacy in Congo more than the current impasse between incumbent President Joseph Kabila and veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, each of whom has claimed victory in the Nov. 28 presidential polls. The legitimacy crisis threatens to trigger another round of civil war in a country that has already lost over six million of its people to the repercussions from a long and senseless conflict.

On Dec. 9, Daniel Ngoy Mulunda, chairman of Congo's Independent National Electoral Commission, declared President Kabila winner of the contentious election, with 49 percent of the votes. Tshisekedi, the main challenger, placed a distant second with 32 percent. Tshisekedi has rejected the results, called Mulunda's statement a "provocation of the people" and declared himself president-elect. The main opposition parties have rallied behind Tshisekedi and are calling on the international community to help solve the impasse.

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