The surprising results of the 2006 elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo reveal the fractious nature of national politics as the country struggles to maintain peace.

Special Report: Elections in the DRC: The Bemba Surprise

Summary

  • The surprising showing of Jean-Pierre Bemba in the 2006 presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has its roots in the histories of both the candidate and his party in the conflict in the DRC.
  • However, the space for opposition politics in the DRC is rapidly closing. With weak political institutions in place, the government increasingly relies on strong-handedness at home even as it is looking abroad for financing and infrastructure development.
  • The violence in eastern DRC poses great challenges for the new government but also opportunities for external actors to support peacebuilding efforts by working multilaterally.
  • Should President Joseph Kabila’s progressive weakening continue and a leadership vacuum emerge, Bemba would be a strong candidate to fill it.

About the Report

The surprising results of the 2006 elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo reveal the fractious nature of Congolese politics as the country struggles to maintain peace. This Special Report examines the election results and the state of democracy in the DRC by tracing the history of the Mouvement de Libération du Congo and its transition from rebel movement to political party. The analysis is based on extensive fieldwork in the region and interviews with MLC members and DRC observers.

Tatiana Carayannis is associate director at the Social Science Research Council's Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum in New York. She has written widely on the Congo wars, nonstate armed actors, and multilateral peace operations and has followed the MLC since its founding in 1998. As a 2005–06 USIP Peace Scholar, she would like to thank the Jennings Randolph Peace Fellowship for supporting some of the research on which this report is based.

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