Congo Elections

Bud Kroeker in Kinshasa Report N° 3

Street Scene in Kinshasa—background sign: Peace in  Democratic Republic of Congo

Dear Friends

Lack of Data

When given the responsibility to coordinate all of the Protestant observers in Congo for this month’s elections, I didn’t know how much was involved, nor how to accomplish the task. In 2006 I made up a list of E-mail addresses of leaders of Protestant Churches throughout the entire country. This time I had to face the fact that half of these addresses were no longer correct. The computers here in Congo are used as a typewriter and not as a data base. Most people here don’t own their own computers so they go to a cyber café or office to rent a computer for a few minutes to send or receive mail. This is, in fact, the only mail presently functioning in Congo. For this reason they also use cell phones, but these too are not useful as data-keepers.

So I went to work on my computer developing a small network throughout the country. Congo is, by the way, about a third the size of the U.S.

Lack of Means

I discovered a team connected with the Peace and Justice Commission who were ready to help me. Four of the men originally come from the Matende – Kikwit area and speak Kikongo, the language I speak which is helpful. For the most part people in Kinshasa all speak Lingala. But the conclusion reached by these men after contacting the Commission in their provinces, is that we just don’t have the means to do the job this time.

Lack of Man-Power

So through long animated discussions, we began to see that only the Lord can accomplish the task and we will have to be as the small army of Gideon, ready to work with the few observers we have. My boss, Pastor Milenge was hoping to rally 30,000 observers to at least work in part of the 60,000 voting stations. We had to come to the conclusion that we would probably not get more than 4000 observers, and won’t be able to offer them any bottles of water to drink or help with their transportation. No government funding is available and no help has come from other sources this time.

Life in the City

Here in Kinshasa and the other cities the people leave in the morning to carry on their little commercial activity, to buy and sell auto parts, produce, clothing etc. and return home in the evening with the minimum amount of food to feed the family that evening and then start all over the next day. When they are asked to do a volunteer job for an entire day it means returning home that evening without food for their family.

Reliance on God

All that I could suggest to the team was to use our creativity and faith by depending on and imploring the help of God. It is indeed a privilege and an honor to be able to represent the church and the nation to assure that the elections take place correctly and in an orderly fashion.

Facing the Challenge

November 7 we received the instructions from the National Independent Election Commission. We must bring in to their office between Nov. 8 – 17 all the names and I.D. numbers of the observers to be registered. Well, we had most of the names, but not the other data. So our team decided to meet each afternoon to plan. We have to organize training sessions for those who will in turn train the observers, then get everyone registered. I finally decided to give a little money to two team members to buy minutes for their cell phones so that they can spend all day just phoning pastors to find locations for training sessions. These two men phoned the entire day. As a result there are six training centers with two pastors each doing the training every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in each location.

A Ray of Hope

The day we launched the operation, a gift came from an association which permitted us to get transportation for those leading the training sessions and provide them with a soft drink.

A Deadline Met

A member of our team worked all night to fill out the application forms and he took them in yesterday, the deadline for getting them in. I had a meeting with the European observers, still skeptical for the way the elections will be run, and looking very tired. The meeting is in the Grand Hotel where the European Union has its headquarters up on the 6th floor. After leaving the hotel I walked down the road quite a ways to avoid all the taxis coming to pick up the important people. Then a local taxi picked me up along with his normal load of passengers, and dropped me off at my office for a little less than a dollar. (400 Congo francs).

The day of the deadline we were waiting for the Vice President of the ECC to sign the document. Finally Bertin and I went over to the nearest office of the CENI since it was already 6 p.m. And there we found crowds of people filling out application forms and standing in line to hand them in. We were ushered  upstairs to an office where a girl filled out the 9 forms from our team, writing it all out by hand in immaculate handwriting. The electronic age hasn’t yet taken over here.

Capturing the Foreigners

The director calls us in and explains that since I am a foreigner they need to capture me. Not that he considers me a wild animal, but that is the word they use for taking a picture of someone. The young secretary guides us through the crowds of people on the ground floor to a man with a webcam on his computer who takes my picture and registers it. I will have my badge later because it has to be signed by the president of the CENI.

Friday morning after rain all night and morning, the two other ladies who are from out of the country must go to get «captured». But the photographer is not there. They go back this afternoon but he is still not there

A new 10-Day Deadline

We learn that the CENI has given until Nov. 24 to get in all the applications. So we still have time to get more observers registered. I am happy to see that there are 1800 in the province of West Kasai because I didn’t have previous contact there.  We still have 10 days until the elections and there are still many tons of materiel to distribute all over the country. But here in Africa we still believe in miracles.

For now, I have another meeting and there is much to discuss.

Sunday Church with Youth

Last Sunday Milenge took me to his church (still under construction). Very good message by the Pastor on 1 Samuel 8 and how it applies to this country now. This church is mostly people from Kivu and the service was in Swahili and Lingala. The young people presided at the service since it is «Youth Week».

The driver brought me back to my room at the Protestant Guest House, so I had a good nap for once. It rained or drizzled nearly all day today. Got a little wet outside shaking hands. I wore no coat thinking it would be hot but it was cool.

Meeting with Couples

Hubert Miyimi third from left-Photo taken in 2010

Hubert and Marceline Miyimi invited me to a meeting this afternoon without telling me what was expected. He is the one who came to interview me for the television broadcast. I thought I would go to their house for dinner so didn’t eat here at CAP at noon. It was one of their usual meetings for couples.

Couples' Get-together

Beginning was typical singing and praying together. Then they had all the couples hold hands together and thank God for each other and pray for one another. Then he asked me to speak and tell about our marriage. I used Prov 15:1 that I had just looked at this morning about putting God first. They were very attentive and asked many questions. There were 9 couples and two men.

More Miracles Needed

Please keep on praying.  We have indeed a great God who can still perform miracles even today in Congo.

Bud

Photos of some churches in the capital

 

 

 

City Life

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