The Guardian view on DRC’s presidential poll: an unconvincing act | Editorial

A government which has been at war with its own people and siphoned off vast sums looks set to return to power in dubious circumstances. The world ought not let an election be stolen

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has never had a peaceful, democratic transition of power since independence from Belgium in 1960. It had been hoped that the long-delayed election this weekend would, in that regard, make history and enable the vast central African country to move on from the bloody divisions of the past. The omens are not good that such a future beckons. This week security forces killed at least seven opposition supporters and wounded more than 50 people. Elections do offer outsiders a chance to draw back the veil on DRC and question how some of its vast natural wealth, valued at $24tn, has seemed to trickle into the bank accounts of those in power while the rest of the nation’s 80 million people remain in crushing poverty.

The country is a mess and the current government is responsible for the disarray. Human rights groups accuse the government of being at war with its own people, with security forces and armed groups having killed thousands of civilians in the past two years. At least the election ought to see the back of President Joseph Kabila, a strongman who has locked up critics and crushed protests. The constitution required Mr Kabila to step down in 2016 but he stayed on for two more years. He only conceded an election when regional powers pressed for him to go. It also helped that the United States threatened to sanction members of Mr Kabila’s family. However, his appointed successor, Emmanuel Shadary, remains under European Union sanctions for serious human rights violations. Sadly for DRC, Mr Shadary will probably win the presidential race because the opposition have split.

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