Congo Elections

Bud Kroeker Report N° 8

Friday evening, December 9, 2011

Dear friends,

Thursday morning, Kinshasa comes to life little by little, but as they say here “The getting around  is yet very timid.” There are only a few faithful workers left here at the Guest House.

I have an appointment this morning with Tim and Suzanne Lind of the Mennonite Central Committee, who have their office on the second floor of the building where ECC has its headquarters, and where I work. They come to pick me up at the Guest House in their car and we have a nice visit talking about the future of the work here in Congo. Suzanne Lind was here in 2006 during the elections and was still here the day after I left when the uprisings of Bemba’s army flared up when they refused to accept the election  results and started shooting with heavy guns, aiming at the Congolese army, the FARDC. At that time she’d dropped to the floor of her office and stayed there during the whole affair. I have to admire the courage of both her and her husband for not abandoning Congo after that experience and giving up on her. In spite of all she and her husband devotedly continue their full-time humanitarian efforts.

Immediately following this visit, I accompany Pastor Milenge and Jules Lweso to the 7th floor of the PNUD—the United Nations—where we wait for the arrival of two diplomats: Stanislas Baba, the General Counselor for Elections and Linda Ekone, Director of a project we were working on the first week of my stay here in Kinshasa. The project is designed to steer the Congolese population—especially the youth—through a process of non-violence throughout the election and the whole year ahead.

With the Director’s signature in hand we go downstairs to the entry hall where large stacks of material for the campaign are stacked including posters, flyers, arm bands, with the slogan No to violence during elections. This message is urgent and all this material has to be loaded into two vehicles that make several trips back and forth.D

The driver drops me off at the Grand Hotel for a meeting with all the European Union Observers. While we load up the cars, several dignitaries arrived in their big 4×4 with license plates CMD (Chef de Mission Diplomatique) Chief of Diplomatic Mission, with their bodyguards. Not the usual place to find a missionary, to say the least.

In the afternoon everyone again scatters so as not to get caught too late in the city traffic. The CENI still hasn’t announced the results of the elections and people are afraid of up-risings and violence. Both police and army are posted at main intersections. Other armed forces ride around in the back of their pickups, prepared to jump at the slightest incident. Folks here haven’t forgotten the events of 2006 when two armies fought each other.

I’ve barely time to get out of the car when someone comes to pick me up to take me to meet Abbot Malumalu to discuss and get the latest news concerning the $5s due each observer. I am given a huge thick book giving a printout with the names of all the 30,000 observers in Congo. He asks me to verify the list. I find that certain names of Protestant observers are missing.

Friday I stay at the Guest House all day. Everything is very calm. I’m working on the names to turn in for this list of observers, in order for them to qualify for their money. At noon I am given a hot meal. Still no news on the Internet concerning the results of the election.

Shortly after 4 p.m. Bertin Basubi phones me to say that the results have been announced. “God has been good to us!” he says. The actual results are hardly different from the grids I made up the last three days, giving 8,880, 944 votes for Kabila (48,95%) and 5,864,795 votes for Tshisikedi (32,33%) of all the 32,024,640 voters in Congo.

Throughout the entire day people talk to me of their worries and fears. Erik Kumedisa was here this morning but his son phoned to plead with him to come home. This evening after the announcement is made on the radio and TV, those with whom I talk are accepting the results. Some coming off the streets even say that there are people celebrating. It is not possible for an African to totally hide his emotions.  We continue to pray that the city will stay calm because tomorrow people will have to go out to find food. Three days staying home here means three days without eating.

The world surely must ask “Why so much excitement and unrestrained emotions for a routine election; these go on in many places all the time?” The answer is that this is only the second election for such a wide-spread and diverse country as Congo, and after a gruesome 50-year dictatorship, we might say they have a right to feel jittery. They need time to ease gradually into democracy. Thus, these first steps have been unsure and unsteady.

May God guide and care for the destiny of this country.

We trust in Him,

Bud

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