The World Today for December 20, 2023


When Cynics Win


Musa Bi, a 42-year-old mother, is one of the nearly 7 million internally displaced people in Congo. She fled M23 rebels who have sown chaos in the central African country, walking for seven days with six children to reach a United Nations refugee camp. She doesn’t know the whereabouts of her husband and two other children.

“M23 came,” she told the BBC. “They were fighting with our (government) soldiers. We started running and those who could not run away, they were killed.”

Because polls are closed in her war-torn region of the country, Bi won’t be able to vote in the Dec. 20 presidential election that analysts view as a referendum on the job performance of incumbent President Félix Tshisekedi.

Tshisekedi assumed power in elections in 2018, succeeding Joseph Kabila, who had run the country for 18 years after his father, Laurent-Désiré Kabila, who also served as president, was assassinated in 2001, explained the Council on Foreign Relations. The Kabila family and others were among those who fought a series of wars in Congo and surrounding countries from the late 1990s to the early 2000s.

Tshisekedi managed to assert his independence from the Kabila political machine. But rebels are active in eastern Congo, the numbers of displaced people are at a record high, corruption throughout the country is rampant, and the president’s signature initiative of free primary education has faltering progress.

As the Economist argued, Congo has raw materials – it produces 70 percent of the world’s cobalt, a vital material for green technologies – a young population, and other assets. Yet poor governance and war have undermined the state. Congo’s infrastructure is antiquated or nonexistent. Around 60 percent of the country lives in extreme poverty.

Embezzlement scandals involving the country’s state-owned mining firms have also dogged the president and emboldened his critics, added Al Jazeera.

One of those critics, millionaire businessman Moise Katumbi, is currently the president’s main rival, reported the Associated Press. But other challengers include Martin Fayulu, who lost to Tshisekedi in 2018 but has contended that the election was stolen, as well as Nobel Peace Prize laureate Denis Mukwege, a doctor who has treated victims of sexual violence from eastern Congo.

In a sign of the violence hanging over the vote, however, Katumbi recently suspended his campaign temporarily after police fired live rounds during a raucous political rally, resulting in several injuries, Reuters wrote.

Cynics could be forgiven for not expecting anything to change much here, no matter who wins.

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