With about three weeks to voting day (28 November), the Democratic Republic of Congo's general elections have dominated public debate, the media and state activities. IRIN spoke to a number of Congolese about their hopes, fears and aspirations for the poll:
Gustave Bagayamukwe, president of a South Kivu-based civil society organization, the Association pour la défense des intérêts du Kivu:
"To date, South Kivu is ungovernable; we've had 15 governors in 15 years whereas other provinces have had only three governors in the same period. The long period of civil war in the province has retarded development and reconciliation. Our association is a platform of civil society organizations pushing for transparent and peaceful elections; we are sensitizing the population to the need to have peace before, during and after the elections.
"We are urging the population to vote for leaders who genuinely care about them; those who can make population-friendly laws. Unfortunately, the situation in most parts of the east [of the country] is like choosing between plague and cholera because most of the candidates are not suitable to be the country's leaders. The other main concern in South Kivu is that voter registration did not cover most of the territories because of insecurity; this has denied a lot of people a chance to pick leaders they deserve."
Georgette Songo Biebie, gender activist and president of the Congolese Women's Caucus:
"As an activist, I fight to see effective gender parity in all sectors of our society; over the past 15 years, the Congolese Women's Caucus has tried its best to achieve women's full participation in all sectors of the government but it has not been easy. It is common to find women at the grassroots mostly voting for male candidates; we are trying to get them to trust female leaders too.
"In 2006, 15 percent of the 9,000 parliamentary candidates were women but only eight women made it to parliament; we also had four women running for president in 2006; this year, only one showed interest but did not submit her papers on time... Although the constitution stipulates that there must be gender parity in the electoral process, it is not enforced or respected in reality. But what really hampers women's participation is poverty - most women are too poor and to join politics one needs money. There is a saying that if you want to see poverty in the country, you need to see Congolese women. We have not lost hope though, we have seven values we are basing our fight on: patriotism, love, ethics, responsibility, work, reconciliation and peace."
Kakwata Nguza, a senator from Katanga in the northeastern province of Orientale:
“We hope that with these elections, democracy will take root in our country. To my opponents, I say let us give the Congolese a chance to decide who they want to be their leaders. My campaign platform is one of anti-corruption and championing the right of the people I represent to food security, quality health services, access to education for all children and the improvement of conditions in the country’s prisons. I hope I will get the people’s vote because of what I stand for.”
Modeste Mbonigaba, president of an association of university alumni in Kinshasa and author of books on elections, good governance and development in Africa:
"When we reflect on DRC's future, it seems the country has lost the vision of the nation's founding fathers who published a manifesto in 1956 on African conscience and a vision of the future of Congo. Independence came but it wasn't what this vision envisaged. In 2008, we published a book, in French, on leadership change in the DRC; in it we provide the strategy and methodology of how to work in new governance in the country. Although we have not implemented this strategy for the coming elections, we hope to do so before the next elections in 2016 because, in our book, we show how to educate and sensitize the people, even those who are illiterate, in making the right choice of political leadership.
"Real leaders have yet to emerge in this country; so far, we are mostly guided by nepotism, tribalism, corruption and fraud. We have leaders who are unable to distinguish what is good for them and what is good for the population; hence we must attempt a change of mentality on the part of the people so they can understand the citizens’ right to vote."
Jacques Tshimbalanga, deputy secretary-general of a teachers' union, the National Syndicate of Conventional Catholic Schools:
"Our leaders as well as the general population must abandon the corruption that is eating away at our society and adopt transparency in governance in order for the country to develop. For us in the education sector, the biggest challenge during the electoral period is for the teachers' union and education NGOs to sensitize teachers and the general population to consider voting for candidates who have formally committed to improving people's living standards, especially the country's education. This way, when such leaders take power, they will prioritize education, health and other basic services."
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions