Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Congo election could be a test of country's democracy

By Faith Karimi, CNN
November 23, 2011 -- Updated 1904 GMT (0304 HKT)
The Democratic Republic of Congo will hold both presidential and parliamentary elections on November 28. Here supporters of incumbent, Joseph Kabila drive down streets in the eastern city of Goma.
The Democratic Republic of Congo will hold both presidential and parliamentary elections on November 28. Here supporters of incumbent, Joseph Kabila drive down streets in the eastern city of Goma.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • This is Congo's second election since 1997
  • Incumbent Joseph Kabila is seen as the frontrunner
  • Congo gained independence from Belgium in 1960

Editor's note: On November 28, the Democratic Republic of Congo will hold elections. Every day until the elections, CNN will spotlight this central African country in a series of articles. With a population of over 71 million, the DRC has enormous mineral wealth but remains one of the poorest countries in the world. It is also in the grip of a bloody war that has claimed more than five million lives since 1998.

(CNN) -- Voters in the Democratic Republic of Congo head to the polls on November 28 to pick a president and parliament in the mineral-rich central African nation. This is Congo's second election since 1997, and analysts consider it the nation's true test of democracy.

Congo's history

Congo gained independence from Belgium in 1960, and soon after Patrice Lumumba was elected the nation's prime minister. Mobutu Sese Seko seized power in a coup five years later and changed the country's name to Zaire.

Sese Seko was toppled in a 1997 coup led by Laurent Kabila, who renamed it the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Soon after Kabila was assassinated in 2001, his son, Joseph Kabila, assumed power and announced the formation of a U.N.-led transitional government two years later. He won the 2006 election, making this year's poll the second since the toppling of Sese Seko. The 2006 election overseen by the United Nations was considered a bridge to transition from a dictatorship. Analysts say this year's election is the true test of democracy.

Conflict minerals of Congo

What happened in the last election?

International observers considered the 2006 poll -- the first free election in Congo in about 40 years -- as generally free and fair. There were some clashes between supporters of the two frontrunners, but no major violence was reported. His main rival Jean-Pierre Bemba, who got the second-highest number of votes, disputed the official outcome.

What are the expectations for this election?

Kabila is hoping to secure another five-year term as the opposition hopes to persuade voters change is overdue. A series of campaigns have been held nationwide, with some media reports of violence during the period.

Incumbent Joseph Kabila is hoping to secure another five-year term.

A U.N. report this month said there has been limited freedom of expression during the campaign period, and urged candidates to respect the constitution and citizens' rights. International, regional and national observers will be at polling stations together with political parties and religious leaders to monitor the electoral process, according to the U.N. Opposition leaders and analysts have also expressed concern about the make-up of the electoral commission.

Why is Congo important?

Congo's success is vital to the Great Lakes region, which has suffered the effects of the violence in the nation. Violence and rapes are widely reported in eastern Congo, including a holiday season mass rape last year that sent shock waves across the international community.

CNN tracks massacred gorilla group

The east remains the epicenter of attacks by anti-government militias. The international community has spent massive amounts of money in an effort to stabilize the vast nation.

Despite its rich resources, Congo battles violence and poverty. A decade of conflict between government forces and armed militias left millions dead as a result of the fighting, and hunger and diseases.

Millions of others have been displaced, and the international community has decried the use of rape as a weapon in the conflict. Congo is rich in resources, including cobalt, gold, copper and tantalum. The international community has set up laws to ensure that companies buying the resources are not helping fund wars in the nation and neighboring countries.

The main candidates

Congo has 11 presidential candidates, including the incumbent, according to local media reports. But only a few stand a chance at defeating Kabila, who has maintained an edge amid the divided opposition.Nearly 30 million people are registered to vote, according to the reports. Kabila has been at the helm since 2001, and his greatest advantage in his incumbency and the divided opposition, according to analysts.

Challenger Etienne Tshisekedi is hoping to capitalize on the nation's desire for political change, but he was a major player during the Sese Seko dictatorship, which might count against him. Kabila's former aide Vital Kamerhe is also among the contenders. He is largely credited with being instrumental in his 2006 win but broke with Kabila's party a few years later.

Sese Seko's son, Francois-Joseph Mobutu, is also among the contenders.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Democratic Republic of Congo
December 9, 2011 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
The DR of Congo is scheduled to release election results after a two-day delay that has intensified tensions between the government and opposition leaders.
November 29, 2011 -- Updated 1210 GMT (2010 HKT)
Vote counting is under way in the DR of Congo after millions went to the polls in the nation's second postwar election amid logistical challenges.
November 28, 2011 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Spewing red hot lava 300 meters in the air, an erupting volcano in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is turning the war-torn African country into an unlikely tourist destination.
November 25, 2011 -- Updated 1053 GMT (1853 HKT)
Filmmaker Fiona Lloyd-Davies details her experience talking to the women of eastern Congo who had been raped multiple times by gangs of soldiers.
November 23, 2011 -- Updated 1904 GMT (0304 HKT)
Voters in the Democratic Republic of Congo head to the polls on November 28 to pick a president and parliament in the mineral-rich central African nation.
Since he was elected governor of Katanga province in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2007, Moise Katumbi has been intent on change.
Conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo has claimed hundreds of sexual violence victims as women and girls, according to aid agencies.
Congo is rich in minerals used to make cell phones and other electronics. But there are fears that armed groups are using the minerals to fund their activities.
Her image may have appeared on billboards worldwide, but Noella Coursaris is now trying to help children and women in her birthplace of DRC.
A Congolese gangster drama is kick starting the war-torn country's movie business after operations shut down following decades of conflict.
Despite years of chaotic warfare in and around their habitat, the population of a group of Grauer's gorillas has grown, researchers say.
ADVERTISEMENT