Crisis in Congo: Are Elections the Solution?
Subject: Towards a New Congo Crisis? | NYU Abu Dhabi Institute
Date: (Monday, February 12, 2018)
Time: 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Location: NYU Abu Dhabi Institute, 19 Washington Square North, New York, NY 10011
● Kambale Musavuli, International Human Rights Advocate; Spokesperson, Friends of the Congo, Individuals
● Jason Stearns, Senior Fellow, NYU Center for International Cooperation; Director, Congo Research Group, Individuals
● Tatiana Carayannis, Director, Social Science Research Council’s Violent Conflict Research Initiative; Visiting Senior Fellow, The London School of Economics and Political Science, Individuals
● Severine Autesserre, Professor of Political Science, Barnard College, Columbia University
● The roundtable discussed the tensions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2017.
● Carayannis and Stearns believe that tensions in the DRC stem from disapproval with current president Joseph Kabila, while Musavuli and Autesserre believe that the tensions stem from unsolved local issues.
● Carayannis and Stearns support new elections as they believe it will alleviate political tensions and ease violence. Musavuli and Autesserre attributed violence to a disconnect between the government and public.
Carayannis began by describing the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as the worst crisis since 1998. The gulf between the government and opposition has widened as food and education prices rose — telltale signs of an economic crisis. Believing that the source of distress in the DRC is political, Carayannis called for elections as a means to assuage public frustration. Predicting that elections will occur soon, Carayannis said the main question is whether President Joseph Kabila will stay in power.
Agreeing completely with Carayannis, Stearns said the Kabila government is rushing towards elections while making sure the elections favor the current coalition. He predicts three scenarios — the government may propose elections that are boycotted by the opposition, the elections may occur with some reform, or President Kabila is overthrown by his own military. Stearns called an election with reform the best option and a military coup the worst option.
Autesserre believes the problems facing the DRC go beyond politics. According to Autesserre, violence is not only linked to national and international politics but local conflicts as well; problems such as unemployment, poverty, and corruption also spark violence. She called for peace to be established at the local level to ensure national harmony, arguing that national elections will not truly represent the citizens.
Musavuli said national unity must occur before any reforms can take place. He said the youth has the will and drive to change the DRC, but must unite to do so; no change will occur if there are several groups fighting different fights. The youth needs to have one message and need to speak one voice. Musavuli said no election can reflect the will of the people given the current state of the DRC.
Reporter: Pooja Nayyar | Editor: Chao Wang