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Things were not looking good for the future of democracy in Congo yesterday, after African Heads of State convened at a summit in Addis Ababa to discuss the DRC’s contentious elections.  While, at first, African leaders seemed unwilling to stand up to Congolese President Joseph Kabila and to question the duplicitous tactics of the Electoral Commission (CENI), that very same day brought an unexpected turning of the tide.

SADC Summit in Ethiopia

Meeting under the auspices of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)–a consortium of 16 member states, including Congo, established to promote sustainable development and good governance throughout the region–the “double troika” meeting brought together leaders from Namibia, Angola, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.  While the mere existence of the meeting breathed hope into the tenses predicament in the Congo, where one opposition candidate has been declared the winner of the presidential election, while another actually won the vote, the hope for legitimate scrutiny and regional pressure to respect rule of law was soon lost.

After the meeting was concluded, the SADC, chaired by Dr. Hage G. Geingob, President of Namibia, released a disappointing Communiqué that exemplified not only others’ unwillingness to go up against Kabila but also the deep web of corruption that makes respecting the rule of law, human rights, and democracy in autocratic, kleptocratic regimes an extraordinary challenge.  Instead of pressuring the Constitutional Court to release the voting records, admit that Felix Tshisekedi, the declared winner, was not the actual victor, or call for a recount, the SADC declined to criticize Congo’s election process, despite empirical evidence of immense and pervasive electoral fraud.  

Leaked polling data has shown that opposition leader Martin Fayulu was the clear winner of the Dec 30 vote and that Tshisekedi should have finished a distant second.  Instead of addressing this head on, the SADC instead congratulated the electoral commission on its organization of the vote. “We believe the situation in the DRC has been managed and handled well and international constitutional processes are ongoing,” said the Communique.  “Any electoral grievances must be addressed in line with the DRC constitution and relevant electoral law.” Chastising the international community for inserting itself in Congo’s affairs and, therefore, disrespecting its sovereignty and territorial integrity, the SADC essentially told the rest of the world to butt out and leave things to Congo’s Constitutional Court, whose judges–notably–were appointed by Kabila.  

The SADC’s position effectively reduced the likelihood of any multilateral intervention in the Congo should the constitutional court validate Tshisekedi without actually proving his victory. Disappointingly, it further entrenched the longstanding practice of African leaders’ commending whatever other members of the boys’ club do, even when they know it is tainted. Numerous Congolese activists contacted me, absolutely despondent about the group’s refusal to act, but only a few hours later, there came an unexpected surprise.

The African Union Weighs In

Later on Jan 17, and also in Addis Ababa, the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) and President of Rwanda Paul Kagame, leaders of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), and the SADC came together for another high-level meeting on the DRC’s presidential, national, and provincial elections.  Somehow, despite the presence of many of the same SADC member states at this gathering of African power elites, the Heads of State and Government attending the meeting “concluded that there were serious doubts on the conformity of the provisional results, as proclaimed by the National Independent Electoral Commission, with the verdict of the ballot boxes.”  Accordingly, the Heads of State called for the suspension of the proclamation of the final results of the elections!  According to newspaper Jeune Afrique, after initial deliberations, there was “no doubt” for any of the high-level participants that the real winner of the Dec 30 election is Martin Fayulu.

What’s more, they did not confine their involvement to mere words, they followed up with a prescribed action.  The Heads of State agreed to dispatch a high-level delegation to the DRC next Monday, Jan 21, with the mission of ending the post-electoral crisis in the country.  The delegation will be comprised of Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Moussa Faki Mahamat (Chair of the African Union Commission), Hage Geingob (Namibia), Edgar Lungu (Zambia), and Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa).  Jeune Afrique reports that these Heads of State will present Kabila with a tough choice: either tell CENI to proclaim Fayulu the victor, or hold a new, inclusive elections, in which exiled opponents would be able to run.  In the latter case, the new election should be run by an interim government without Kabila’s involvement.

My sources tell me that President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda played a large part in convincing participants to speak up and take action.  He exhibited videos of massacres in the eastern DRC, telling his fellow leaders that they can no longer stand idly by in the face of such baseless bloodshed, which he fears could devolve into a genocide.  Jeune Afrique reports that the leaders of Angola and Zambia were also steadfast in their admonition of Kabila’s corrupt maneuverings. Jewish World Watch commends these leaders for taking a stand and calling for transparency and an end to the mass atrocities, which have gone unchecked by Kabila and plagued the Congolese people for far too long.

What are we doing about it?

Several American politicians have spoken out against the announcement of Tshisekedi’s fraudulent win, but a clear plan from the Administration is still wanting.  The State Department joined several world leaders last Wednesday in warning Kabila that it would “hold accountable those who….undermine democratic processes.” In addition to threatening possible sanctions against Kabila and his retinue, the State Department called on the electoral commission to ensure that the final declared results reflect the true will of the Congolese people.

Several members of Congress have put their weight behind calls for transparency and rule of law, as well.  Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Chris Coons (D-DE), both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued a joint statement calling for restoration of the internet and phone services, transparent election results, a cessation of violence, and the peaceful and democratic transfer of power.  Los Angeles Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, also articulated her concerns, issuing a statement reminding the Congolese government that “violence does not have to be inevitable.”  The newly-minted Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Eliot Engel, took the most proactive position, by calling on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to provide the Committee with information on how the State Department is working to ensure that the election results are confirmed transparently and according to Congolese laws and regulations so that the new president will have the confidence of the nation.  Chairman Engel also pledged to revisit the Democratic Republic of the Congo Democracy and Accountability Act (H.R. 6207), which JWW advocated for vigorously, and which the House passed in November 2018.

Jewish World Watch and our Congolese partners are grateful for these expressions of concern, solidarity, and democratic principles.  It means a tremendous amount to the people of the Congo that lawmakers in the United States are watching, caring, and giving voice to their concerns.  However, as Senator Engel made patently clear, now is the time for action. Particularly since African leaders have joined together and began the process of pushing for accountability, it is prime time for the United States to offer its support and deliver on its promises.  Especially in light of the passage of the Democracy and Accountability Act, which provided for increased sanctions against disruptors of free and fair elections, the Trump Administration cannot remain silent and impotent in the face of this critical turning point for the future of the Congo.  

This is the most important election in Congo’s history, and we must do our part as a country to elevate the voices of the war-beleaguered, rights-deprived Congolese people who yearn for change and functioning government so desperately.  Despite America’s recent tendencies to turn inward and involve ourselves less in the affairs of other countries, the fate of the DRC has serious and profound implications for not just the Great Lakes Region, but all of Africa, where Islamic fundamentalism is spreading at an alarming rate–a phenomenon that Washington surely takes interest in.

Please join Jewish World Watch in amplifying our call to action.  Contact the White House and tell President Trump now is the time to deliver on our nation’s promise of helping to realize a free and just DRC.  African neighbors have taken the lead, now we must follow. We cannot underestimate the importance of America’s involvement to the people of the DRC.  If we are truly a democracy, we must help the people of the DRC realize the dream of having their very own.

The post Congo’s election drama: African leaders take a stand appeared first on Jewish World Watch.

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Position Summary: Jewish World Watch is seeking a Community Partnerships Coordinator who will be responsible for nurturing existing organizational partners for JWW, as well as developing new partnerships. With a primary focus on increasing our engagement with synagogues, the Community Partnerships Coordinator also recruits and jointly develops programs to engage additional civic and faith-based institutions in order to amplify JWW’s message through education and advocacy in the community, in particular through participation at the annual Walk to End Genocide. This position will significantly contribute to the sustainability of the Jewish World Watch mission and programs, and will work closely with the Director of Community Engagement. The Community Partnerships Coordinator will report to the Executive Director.

Duties and Responsibilities Include but not Limited to:
  • In conjunction with the Director of Community Engagement, participate in planning for and facilitation of TAP (Teen Ambassador Program) sessions, recruitment and curricular development
  • Manage existing and recruit new organizational members and partners, as well as individuals, to participate in Jewish World Watch education, advocacy and fundraising initiatives
  • In conjunction with the Director of Community Engagement, foster relationships with key clergy, educators and other professionals in the community
  • In conjunction with the Director of Community Engagement, develop sustained relationships and engagement with students and families from the Los Angeles region
  • Major focus on organizing and recruiting for the LA Walk to End Genocide and the satellite walks (team building, fundraising, training) in collaboration with other JWW staff, consultants and walk chair
  • Develop JWW engagement in targeted communities beyond Southern California
  • Help conceive and support programs initiated by partner and member institutions
  • Help to renew and extend a collaborative, representative structure to engage synagogues, churches and community organizations
  • Promote JWW events to member synagogue institutions and other organizations, as well as individuals, to increase attendance at JWW events
  • Oversee recruitment and training of JWW volunteers and speakers
  • In conjunction with Director of Advocacy and Grantmaking and Director of Communication, support JWW advocacy work by recruiting participation in JWW advocacy campaigns
  • Work with Director of Communications and Marketing and Communications committee to produce outreach collateral and marketing materials
  • Responsible for arranging and taking part in frequent speaking engagements and presentations to small and large groups of all ages
QUALIFICATIONS:
  • Bachelor’s degree required; Master’s in Jewish Communal Professional degree preferred. 
  • Two-plus years of experience working in full-time community organizing. 
  • Familiarity with the L.A. Jewish community preferred. 
  • Experience working with other faith-based and inter-faith communities preferred. 
  • Excellent writing and verbal communication skills.
  • Ability to work some evenings and weekends

References required

Salary range $40,000-$50,000, depending upon experience.

The post Job Opening: Community Partnership Coordinator appeared first on Jewish World Watch.

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U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law vital bipartisan legislation named for the late Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, the White House announced in a statement, on Jan. 15 – days before Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The ELIE WIESEL GENOCIDE AND ATROCITY PREVENTION ACT (GAPA), approved unanimously by the Senate in December has been a cornerstone of Jewish World Watch’s advocacy efforts for years.  It’s incredible to finally see this vision of coordinated, holistic, and comprehensive genocide prevention realized!  Thank you to both California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris for co-sponsoring this critical piece of legislation, which establishes the prevention of genocide and other atrocity crimes as a core national security interest and fundamental moral imperative.

GAPA will establish two crucial mechanisms for genocide prevention: (1) a Mass Atrocities Task Force to strengthen agency efforts at atrocity prevention and response and (2) a Complex Crises Fund to enable the State Department and USAID to quickly respond to emerging or unforeseen complex crises oversees, including potential atrocity crimes.

A million thanks to JWW activists for the thousands upon thousands of letters you sent, phone calls you made, and advocacy meetings with elected officials that you have participated in! We couldn’t have achieved this without your unwavering support!

The post Trump signs Elie Wiesel Act into law appeared first on Jewish World Watch.

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Sudan has been roiled by protests and concomitant violence since mid-December. What began as popular disapproval over steep hikes in bread prices, thattripled overnight due to a government cut of a vital bread subsidy, has now metamorphosed into growing anti-government rallies demanding President Omar al-Bashir’s resignation. The protests have spread to engulf towns and cities throughout Sudan, including, most recently, the Darfur region.

As would be expected from Bashir’s tainted past as the architect of genocide and other mass atrocities in Darfur, these protests have been met with disproportionate and illegal use of force by his security forces. Dozens have been killed and the steadfastness of the opposition suggests that the protests could grow bloodier. In addition to shooting live rounds into crowds and using tear gas, security forces have arrested and beaten countless journalists, professionals, and political leaders.  The Internet and phone service have been shut down countrywide. Nevertheless, photos and videos that managed to get posted to social media show protesters calling for Bashir to step down as well as the extent of the physical violence being perpetrated against them.

In the past, President Bashir and his government have been able to ride out popular demonstrations.  But these newest protests, demanding Bashir’s resignation because of chronic economic mismanagement and corruption, have spread like wildfire, even to loyalist regions, and have bolstered rising discontent within his own party.  Protesters have gathered in Bashir’s strongholds in the riverine north and even attacked several ruling party offices.

While the government’s security forces have shown brutality in attempting to quell these mounting calls for change, the army has demonstrated surprising restraint, perhaps because the political opposition has come out to urge generals to remove Bashir.  According to the International Crisis Group, “Discontent within the ruling party, the depth of the economic crisis and the diverse makeup of protests suggest Bashir has less room to maneuver than before.”

In Sudan, at least 5.5 million people are in need of humanitarian aid, and about two million are internally displaced, primarily in Darfur and in the southern Blue Nile and South Kordofan states, where protracted rebellions continue to bring despair to the local civilian populations.  A ceasefire for these regions, announced by Bashir last year, quietly – and perhaps dangerously – expired on Jan. 1, overshadowed by the populist revolt.

Background to the protests

Protests began on Dec 19 in Atbara, a town about 200 miles outside of Khartoum, the capital.  Discontent quickly spread to at least 28 towns and cities across the country, mirroring in many ways the dynamics of the Arab Spring.  People from all facets of Sudanese society initially took to the streets to protest the rising cost of food staples, particularly bread, which skyrocketed after the government lifted wheat subsidies without implementing protections to offset deteriorating living conditions.  As the ire spread countrywide, the protesters’ call for economic improvements transformed into chants calling for Bashir and other top officials to step down.

While protesters hail from mixed political and economic backgrounds, including members of Sudan’s long-standing leftist movements as well as the rural poor, Sudanese professionals have emerged as leaders in the call for change.  Protests have been taking place closer to Sudan’s wealthier center as well as areas traditionally loyal to Bashir. The newly-formed Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), an umbrella organization comprised of several professional unions that have gone on strike – has spearheaded multiple marches on the presidential palace.  SPA has been coordinating its efforts with a loose coalition of youth movements, though the lion’s share of the protesters are ordinary Sudanese who blame their desperate economic predicament on Bashir’s 30-year long dictatorial, kleptocratic reign.

Protesters have attacked several offices of Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP), ransacking and burning the buildings in tactics that have rarely been seen outside of Sudan’s war-beleaguered conflict zones.  In response, the government has unleashed its four major security organs: the police, the Sudanese armed forces, the National Intelligence and Security Service, and the notorious Rapid Support Forces militia. These security apparatuses have deployed their historically barbaric tactics; though indiscriminate attacks on civilians have been relatively bridled, not yet having reached the levels of previous demonstrations, most notably the 2013 protests around the removal of a fuel subsidy, which left almost 200 dead.  

Perhaps the clearest statement of the political opposition’s mission came from the Sudan Professionals Association after a march it organized on Dec 27: “Today, we the Sudanese people … have crossed the point of no return on the path of change … We will pursue all options of peaceful, popular actions…until we bring down the regime that continues to shed blood.  Today, more than any time before, we are confident in our collective ability to realize that.”

Radio Dabanga reported that doctors from Khartoum who treated injured demonstrators said that security forces were “shooting to kill.”  Sudan expert Eric Reeves has posted numerous photographs of snipers strategically positioned in Khartoum. When Sudanese civilians have managed to get onto social media, they have exposed a shocking number of bullet wounds to the head, mostly in young men, strongly suggesting that “shoot to kill” orders have been issued or at minimum discretion to use targeted lethal force.   

As of late December, Amnesty International had received credible reports of 37 people killed at the hands of government security forces.  Human Rights Watch has put the death doll at 40, including children. Definitive numbers are difficult to obtain amidst the crackdown on journalists and avenues of communication.  However, the Sudan Tribune says that reliable sources within the medical community, compiled from different Sudanese hospitals and clinics, place the death toll at closer to 70. Hundreds have been injured, and more than 2,000 activists and political leaders have been arrested.  Doctors and medics seems to have been strategically targeted.

Recent violence

According to Yasir Arman, writing in the Sudan Tribune, Sunday January 6th marked one of the biggest demonstrations in Sudan’s history.  Labeling the protests, “a tsunami against all odds,” Arman writes that this “revolution” has “brought into the political scene a new generation of women and men who have shown impressive courage against the fascism of political Islam, and they have marked a qualitative change in the struggle of the urban and rural areas of Sudan.  It constitutes the foundation of a new civil rights movement.”

Last Wednesday, Jan. 9, at last three people were killed and many others wounded in the economic epicenter of Omdurman.  Witnesses and observers described it as the largest demonstration since the beginning of protests in mid-December. On-the-ground accounts and videos posted on social media show that security forces fired bullets and tear gas into hospitals.  They also beat doctors and patients while inside. Plain-clothed security forces were seen hunting down demonstrators, beating them and confiscating their phones after arresting them.

On Sunday, Jan. 13, riot police fired tear gas at crowds of anti-government protesters chanting “peace, peace” and “revolution is the people’s choice,” in Khartoum.  Protesters carried the Sudanese flag as well as banners bearing the slogan “peace, justice, freedom,” which has become a key rallying cry of the movement. They are determined to achieve a complete government overhaul.

Demonstrations also broke out for the first time in the western region of Darfur, after the Sudanese Professionals’ Association called for rallies in the war-beleaguered region. Protestors took to the streets of El-Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state. Sudan’s National Human Rights Commission condemned the use of live ammunition against demonstrators. 

Despite this uptick in violence, the protesters seem undeterred.  Organizers have called for near-daily demonstrations across the country against Bashir this week, coining it a “Week of Uprising.”  

What’s Next?

Both sides are at an impasse, unwilling to step back.  As protests and opposition continue to mount, the government raises the stakes with increasing levels of violence.  It remains unclear what impact recent events will have on Sudan’s most vulnerable.

According to the International Crisis Group, “within the ruling party and security elites, ever-louder voices question whether the country can escape its economic doldrums with Bashir at the helm, given that his presidency is the great obstacle to obtaining foreign aid and or loans.”  Though Bashir’s base is splintering, at this point in time, he shows no signs of stepping down in face of these defections.

Three possible scenarios could usher in an end to the protests.  Under the first – and worst-case – scenario, Bashir would survive by subduing protesters via force.  As the Economist points out, Sudan is “unable to pay its bills, the government has printed money. Inflation, at around 70%, is now the second highest in the world after Venezuela,” so implementing reforms to appease the protesters would not be feasible.  Aside from the atrocities this option would unleash upon the Sudanese people, the maintenance of the status quo by force would spell disaster for Khartoum’s recent efforts to re-engage with the West. With the ceasefire in Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan expired, Bashir’s efforts to maintain control and buy loyalty could cause an uptick in fighting and instability in these tormented regions.

Option two would involve Bashir’s ouster by elements within his own party or security elites.  While this scenario might usher in a new government, it would likely bring instability, infighting, and perhaps just more of the same, as corruption runs deep, and the Sudanese state is depleted after decades of war and sanctions.

The most promising scenario – option three – would be Bashir’s resignation, with an internationally backed coalition government stepping in to run the country until fresh elections can take place.  In order to tip the scales towards this scenario–and protect civilians from greater bloodshed in the streets – the United States must use Khartoum’s efforts to improve its relationship with Washington as a bargaining chip.  

In a statement released last Tuesday, the United States – with the United Kingdom, Norway, and Canada–condemned the violence against protesters and made clear that Sudan’s “actions and decisions over the coming weeks will have an impact on the engagement of our governments and others in the coming months and years.”  This is an important first step. The U.S. should continue to openly discourage violence against protesters and signal that future cooperation, aid, and normalization in relations are at stake.

While the U.S. lifted some sanctions in Oct 2017, the second phase of sanctions relief – conditioned in part upon an improvement in Sudan’s human rights record – could lead to more substantial benefits for Sudan, including eventual removal from the U.S.’s state sponsors of terrorism list.  The country’s placement on this list has kept foreign investors and banks at bay. If the designation were lifted, Khartoum could tap into much-needed investment, and perhaps even a bailout by the IMF.

Washington must use this leverage to maintain pressure on Khartoum.  It must warn that commanders of various security apparatuses could face travel bans, asset freezes, and prosecution abroad for indiscriminate killings of civilians.  Only by creating powerful incentives for Bashir’s resignation can the U.S. and other Western nations improve the prospects for a true regime change.

For more information:

Africa News is providing updates on the protests here:

http://www.africanews.com/2019/01/14/police-clashes-with-sudanese-protesting-a-state-of-emergency-in-atbara/

Sudan expert Eric Reeves is compiling a daily compendium of information related to the protests on his website:

http://sudanreeves.org/

The post Sudan protests: Calls for bread evolve into civil rights revolution, reach Darfur appeared first on Jewish World Watch.

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The Walk to End Genocide is a community event that brings together activists of all ages and backgrounds to rise up in one united voice to say: “We will not stand idly by while genocide and mass atrocities occur.”


Register for the 2019 Walk now!

                      

We Walk for the 68.5 million refugees and displaced persons fleeing genocide and mass atrocities worldwide.
 
We Walk to urge our government to take action and to demonstrate that there are thousands of people who care about the crimes against humanity affecting children, women and men every day.
 
We Walk to raise funds to educate, advocate and provide on-the-ground relief for survivors of genocide and mass atrocities. Our projects help people in Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as the Darfuris forced to flee Sudan and the Rohingya who have faced ethnic cleansing in Burma (Myanmar).

Please lend your hearts and your feet to the 2019 Walk to End Genocide because a little time, a little compassion, and a little money can go such a long way.

The post Walk to End Genocide 2019 – registration now open! appeared first on Jewish World Watch.

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The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) much-anticipated presidential and parliamentary elections took place on Sunday, December 30th.  In the past week alone, the elections were postponed by the electoral commission (CENI) from the 23rd to the 30th, and nearly 1.2 million people were excluded from the vote, allegedly due to public safety and security concerns. 

These recent developments followed months of unbridled violence throughout the country: multiple massacres in Beni; ethnic violence leaving 100 dead in Yumbi; instability due to refugee influx in the Kasai region; mass rape campaigns in last-mile communities; 330 dead from Ebola, the second deadliest outbreak in history; multiple deaths at opposition rallies.  An average of 5,500 people fled their homes every day in the country this year, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. 

[For more background on the election in the DRC, click here]

The sprawling, resource-rich nation was left to spiral out of control, with President Joseph Kabila reveling in the chaos and manipulating it to his advantage.  The greater the dysfunction, the greater control Kabila’s regime could wield over the election process and its result.

So what happened on Sunday?  Were the elections free, fair, and transparent as Kabila promised his people and the world?  Will the first peaceful transfer of power since independence from Belgium in 1960 finally take place?

Unfortunately, election monitors and members of local civil society are already reporting troubling irregularities and potential fraud.  According to Jewish World Watch’s field representative, who served as an official national election monitor, what happened on Sunday was nothing more than “widespread planned fraud.”  He cited the following irregularities shared with him by fellow election monitors across the country, which have been corroborated by reports by the Associated Press and Reuters:

  • Several polling stations had no voting machines at all, so disappointed voters would leave only for voting officials to then print fake ballots in their names in support of Kabila’s handpicked candidate and puppet, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary
  • Some polling stations didn’t even open until late in the evening, after official voting hours had ended
  • Votes are counted in the dark at a makeshift polling station created by the people of Beni, one of the regions excluded from the vote just days before the election in the DRC.

    Some voting machines went out of order for several hours with no technical assistance

  • Several polling stations were moved to new locations at the last minute, leaving voters confused about where to go
  • Many polling locations lacked the necessary cables, accessories, or access to battery or electrical power necessary for making the electronic voting machines operational
  • Illiterate voters were preyed upon by election officials and tricked into voting for Shadary
  • Election officials were reported to be stuffing ballots in favor of Shadary
  • A human rights defender and national election observer was arrested for pointing out fraud
  • Registration lists were missing from many polling locations, so people had to wait in line for hours before voting even began. Nearly 50 Kinshasa polling stations were idle for hours because lists of registered voters had not been delivered
  • Many voters could not find their names on lists, so were deprived of the chance to vote altogether
  • With many Congolese never having seen a computer before, the voting machines proved intimidating and confusing

So far, the Catholic Church’s election observer mission said it had received 544 reports of malfunctioning voting machines, 115 reports of election observers being kicked out of or denied access to polling locations, and 44 reports of vote-buying or corruption.  In South Kivu, a police officer and civilian were killed in an altercation that broke out after voters accused an election official of fraud.  The police officer shot and killed a young man involved in melee, and the crowed retaliated, beating the officer to death.

More grim reports like this will likely emerge over the next few days.  Many fear widespread post-election violence if Shadary is declared the victor. Felix Tshisekedi, one of the main opposition candidates, accused Congo’s government of deliberately creating an election day maelstrom to spark a court challenge that could allow Kabila to extend his time in power. “I deplore all the disorder,” Tshisekedi said, calling Kabila’s government “responsible for this mess.”

Kabila and the electoral commission may have done their very best to sabotage the election while maintaining the veneer of legitimacy.  But the people’s thirst for change and democracy could not be stifled, no matter what obstacles were put in their way.  Nowhere was this clearer than in Beni, one of the regions excluded from the presidential vote just a few days before the election. 

Beni is an opposition stronghold, mostly populated by the Nande ethnic group, which some Congo researchers and activists believe has been the target of a forced deportation campaign orchestrated by Kabila himself.   While mainstream media has attributed the string of civilian massacres in Beni to the Islamic militant group ADF, there is mounting evidence to suggest that Congolese and Rwandan soldiers may be the primary perpetrators, in a coordinated effort to terrorize the Nande peoples into fleeing their resource-rich lands and thriving businesses.  

In a poignant, united protest, the people of Beni came out in droves on Sunday and staged their own election.  They refused to stand idly by and be silenced.  They refused to allow for their rights to be ripped away from them.  These people, whose lives have been plagued by mass killings and a horrific Ebola outbreak, came out and joined together to show Kabila and the world what democracy really looks like.  These are the people JWW supports.  These are our heroes. 

Well over 10,000 people lined up across Beni.  They created their own polling stations and paper ballots, which voters deposited into large plastic bags.   They counted their votes in the dark of night, vowing to deliver the results to the electoral commission in the morning.  Through all this, they sang in Swahili, “voting is our right and nobody can stop us.”

The post Congo’s elections went ahead, marked by concerns but also courage appeared first on Jewish World Watch.

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