January 05, 2006

15 Fun Tid Bits on the Congolese Referendum!

Amuse your kids with these true and wholly untrue tidbits from various news sources!

(1) Most people have not had enough information on the Constitution
Source: Colleagues and friends

(2) The Diamond-rich city of Mbuji-Mayi only has one copy of the Constitution
Source: Colleagues and friends

(3) The Constitution debated and defended in Parliament is not the same as that on which people have to vote
Source: Colleagues and friends

(4) People have been told that things will not improve in the country if they vote “No” to the constitution
Source: Colleagues and friends

(5) “Referendum results showed an overwhelming "Yes" to a new constitution”
Source: Reuters

(6) “The Independent Electoral Commission said the "Yes" vote had so far won 83 percent, while the "No" had nearly 17 percent”
Source: Reuters

(7) “The charter limits the president to two five-year terms”
Source: Reuters

(8) “Many Congolese believed they could vote either day and hundreds of would-be voters lined up around the capital, Kinshasa, in front of polling centers that stayed dark. ‘I heard on national radio that we could vote on Monday, this is unbelievable,’ said Feret Mwanza, 33, an unemployed resident of Kinshasa who had traveled from the other end of the sprawling city to vote Monday morning. ‘I want to vote, but now I can't.’”
Source: newsfromrussia.com

(9) “Congolese have not voted en masse since 1970, when then-dictator Mobutu Sese Seko stood as the sole candidate”
Source: newsfromrussia.com

(10) “Some 24 million people are registered to vote”
Source: newsfromrussia.com

(11) “Congo's constitutional referendum, the country's first independent poll in over 40 years, was free and fair, European Union observers said on Wednesday”
Source: BBC news

(12) "I can tell you that the level of participation here will be higher than that in the majority of European countries we came from," he said [Philippe Morillon, head of the EU team]. "This is a great demonstration by the Congolese people of their desire to come out of this crisis."
Source: MONUC

(13) “The Electoral Commission on Monday was not able to specify official turnout figures”
Source: Terraviva Africa

(14) Only 2% of the entire population voted in the Referendum
Source: Colleagues and friends

(15) Some areas of Congo reportedly received copies of the constitution only one day before the vote, and in many isolated villages people were still unaware of the meaning of "constitution" or "referendum", days before the plebiscite
Source: Terraviva Africa


Ammo said...

Yay, you're back!!
So did you support the Constitution? What kind of system is it, presidential or parliamentary?

Congogirl said...

Awesome. I am linking to this.

Beaver said...

Once again, I'm confused. Is this constitution good or bad? By definition a constitution is supposed to protect the people. How about this one?

Hrmf! Once again, frustrated that democracy (as in Republique DEMOCRATIQUE du Congo) is such a hard thing to implement.

Though maybe it has to do with the fact that it is not an outright african concept?

We keep on forgetting that colonization has a lot to do the mess that african "countries" are in.

Geez look at that - I guess I'm a hippie.

Oh well...

TheMalau said...

That may make you a hippie, Beaver, but I certainly do not mind.

As a Congolese person, I must say that in other circumstances I would have steered 20,000 leagues away from some articles of this constitution, that simply make it confusing. And by the way, it is true that there were at least two projects published (my father, who is in Kinshasa, told me he saw both), with significant differences, and that did not help. But as far as protecting people's rights, it has the most far reaching bill of rights ever seen in Congo (except for gay people, and dual-citizens, which it makes impossible btw. Give them a break, they're just starting this thing).

But I agree, Democracy does take a while. I always love to remind people that what passes as full democracy here in the US, was not legally attained for all US citizens until the 60's. Similarly, the French Republic went through a crazy first sesquicentennial of coups, dictators, wars and some democracy here and there. So it is not an easy thing to settle. But I wouldn't go as far as saying that it is not African (democracy, that is). Western Democracy, with the British based parliament, with a Speaker, an Executive, etc, that is definitely foreign. But the core idea of democracy is something that was somewhat practised in such kingdoms as Mali, Kongo, and Ghana, with the practice of choosing the elders that represent each subdivision at the council of elders, in the Royal Court. In other words, the notion of participative government, is a notion that is universal. When the Western kings forgot it, they triggered their own downfall.

Happy new Year to all!!

007 in Africa said...

Thanks for all the comments boys and girls. Themalau, it's nice to hear your positive reinforcement and your understanding of what's going on. As you state, it's a beginning and it ain't bad. Your parallel to the French Republic strikes a nerve--it just sometimes seems like changes to the DRC's policies come from the international community rather than from within the Congo. I am little bit weary of rich politicians and expatriats who decide how the country will be run...when most of the articles of the constitution won't make any difference to an average Congolese villager. But, let us be patient and encourage this first step!

Beaver said...

Here comes the hippie...

007, sorry, I'm hoaging your comment section again. What can I say, I just can't resist a good rant :)

Wow :) Malau certainly has a way of putting it. And Actually, he put it just the right way. When I said Democracy was not a downright african thing, I was indeed referring to the Occidental process.

His reference to France is also legitimate: let's remember 1789 and "La grande terreur" in 18th century France: it wasn't all that different from what we see in some places today.

Whenever I think about messy places (like >Guinea), I get really annoyed, mostly because I always feel that today's mess has a lot to do with the incomplete/inappropriate implementation of European institutions in Africa or Asia.

But you're both right, we have to be optimistic and try to hope for the best.

Thanks, 007, for a most interesting and stimulating post.

Denis said...

> What kind of system is it, presidential or parliamentary?

It seems to be neither... or both rather. Which is why some of its opponents are strongly criticizing the ambiguity of this constitution. The president is supposed to name the prime minister from the majority that was elected to parliament. If such parliamentary majority doesn't exist, the prez can name someone who'll identify a coalition. This means the government comes from the parliament, but the president call the shot on it. I'm totally confused about how this will work if the prez and the parliament are not on the same team.

Another big ambiguity: the state is neither federal nor unitary, once again it's a mixture. This seems to have some good sides: provincial governements get 40% of the revenue money instead of the 20% they've used to get; provinces get more freedom in their own cultural, scientific and political direction; provinces can be merged and split upon referendum.

I am still skeptical about the size of the parliament. The National Assembly is about 500 national deputies, representing cities and territories, not chieftains tho'. The Senate is composed by about 100 senators, representing provinces (elected by provicinal assemblies).
The constitution mentions chieftains but that's pretty much it, nothing constitant about it.

The CEI has published one version of the Constitution, later translated in kikongo, lingala, swahili and tshiluba. You can download it. I've also put a copy on Wikisource: Constitution de la République démocratique du Congo (fr); the original copy (fr). Must read : Petit guide de vulgarisation (fr), making the new constitution simple.

Professor Mampuya has some strong criticism against the constitution (fr). Le Potentiel has an article discussing strength and weaknesses of the constitution (fr)

There's a table of the results observed so far at the CEI site. About 50-50 in Kin and 70 to high 90% for the yes in other areas. From about 58.36% of the total registered electors.

Carl said...

I have had my bacon saved on more than one occasion by the Congolese "man on the streeet"; so I have a lot of respect for that guy. If he can have a few years without being afflicted by kleptocratic dictators and wars, I think he'll do okay.

Simple words, but a tall order.

Also the European colonists left a long time ago. It's time to stop citing them when apportioning blame, it's too easy a way out.

Black River Eagle said...

Wow! Great post and even better comments. Lots of misinformation and halfa-- analysis in the MSM and from EU election observers it seems. In the end the process has to work for the people of the Congo and they must begin to see some tangible benefits, or there is going to be BIG trouble.

I'm optimistic myself, for now.