Editor's Comment

We need peace in DRC

FILE: PRESIDENT Lungu (right) with Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila at State House. Picture: Patriotic Front - PF

AS THE Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) prepares to hold elections on December 23, the world is anxiously waiting to see what the outcome will be.
President Lungu, who is chairperson of the Southern African Development Committee (SADC) organ on politics, defence and security, has called for credible elections and consensus among the stakeholders.
He said the stakes are high, and so are anxieties.
We could not agree more. The DRC elections are important in many ways.
First, because of the country’s checkered history.
For decades, this vast, mineral-rich country has known little peace and there has never been a peaceful handover of power from a sitting president to a new leader.
The very name “Congo” has become synonymous with conflict, with a bloody streak since King Leopold II of Belgium invaded the region around the 1870s.
King Leopold II is said to have killed millions of Congolese.
These killings continued in the post-independence period in 1960.
The conflicts in Congo offer staggering statistics.
In 2001, a US refugee agency said the war had killed 2.5 million people, directly or indirectly, since August 1998.
And in 2017, 1.7 million people were forced to flee their homes.
Aid agencies say the DRC is the worst-affected by conflict displacement in the world.
In a global village, humanitarian crises always have a spill-over.
Today, there are over 15,000 new refugees on Zambian soil, a good number of them are fleeing war in their country for the second or even third time, and have become despondent about ever returning to a peaceful Congo.
This heart-rending narrative about the DRC has to change. It must change.
The DRC has a chance to re-write its history with ink and not human blood by holding credible elections and having a peaceful transfer of power.
We believe that the DRC can be a democratic country, not in name only, but in principle.
And holding elections is one step towards democracy, but these elections must themselves be democratic and credible.
As President Lungu notes, there must be consensus among all the stakeholders. It is the only way to ensure a credible electoral process and a peaceful electoral outcome.
Anything besides this is a recipe for conflict.
Holding elections is the first step to ensuring democracy is established, but such elections if mishandled can be good recipe for civil strife and instability.
We therefore would like to echo the call by President Lungu for credible elections in the DRC.
We agree with President Lungu that there is a lot at stake in the DRC, and we share in the anxiety of the SADC leaders.
The thousands of Congolese refugees in Zambia and other parts of the world want to return to a Congo that guarantees them peace.
Yes, we need peace in the DRC for the Congolese people themselves, who have lost loved ones and livelihoods over the decades; we need peace in the DRC for the region and for the world at large.
It is our hope that the negative narrative about the DRC will change after December 23, and that this resource-rich country will open a new chapter of peace and prosperity.

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