The Enough Project and a coalition of NGOs and Congo experts sent this open letter to Secretary of State John Kerry this week on the issue of democracy and the election cycle in Congo. Below is a preview of the letter, and the full letter is here.
Re: Recommendations for the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Dear Secretary Kerry,
As you know, during the last few weeks the political terrain in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has shifted dramatically.
Despite the widespread rejection of proposals that might allow President Joseph Kabila to bypass his constitutionally enshrined two-term limit — including opposition from members of his own political coalition — the Kabila Government attempted to legislate a national census that could delay the presidential election constitutionally scheduled for the fall of 2016. …
Based on our long experience in the DRC and wide contacts with Congolese political leaders and civil society, we are convinced that it is time for even greater specificity in U.S. policy. We therefore urge you to:
(1) Make explicit that the U.S. will only participate in financing elections based on the results of regular monitoring of CENI’s performance in advancing a credible, constitutionally timely and inclusive electoral process, including its willingness to engage in meaningful dialogue on electoral issues with the opposition and civil society.
(2) Act rapidly and with diplomatic creativity to promote international facilitation of such dialogue, a key to peaceful, credible and democratic presidential and national elections. Experience has shown that an international role is essential to achieving consensus on such urgent and important electoral issues as the Calendar, voter roll and mechanisms of election observation and civic education.
(3) Incorporate into current U.S. Government human rights advocacy strong public identification of specific cases where individuals who have been unlawfully detained by the Government or accused of non-credible offenses.
(4) Provide a meaningful level of assistance — comparable to what we have furnished other important countries — for urgent political party development. The current $3 million, 3- year program is completely inadequate. Without more effective and accountable parties, the democratic transition the U.S. is promoting will be at risk.
(5) Lobby other key diplomatic actors in DRC to support the approach outlined above. Particular attention should be paid to the representatives of the African Union and the United Nations.
Mr. Secretary, you have helped transform U.S. and international policy by recognizing that democratic development is fundamental not only to the Congolese people but also to U.S. and international interests in a huge and turbulent region. We urge you to take these five important steps to help ensure the success of this new policy.
Eastern Congo Initiative
Open Society Policy Center
Mvemba Phezo Dizolele – Hoover Institution, Stanford University
Anthony W. Gambino – Former USAID Mission Director to the DRC
Mark L. Schneider – Senior Vice President, International Crisis Group
Jason K. Stearns- Director, Congo Research Group, New York University
Herbert Weiss – Professor of Political Science Emeritus, City University of New York
Stephen R. Weissman- Former Staff Director, House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Africa