DRC: Accept poll result and move on



Hifikepunye Pohamba officially became the second president of an independent Namibia during the inauguration ceremony the day before after having won the Presidential Election held on 15/16 November 2004.

The Founder President, Dr Sam Nujoma, had stepped down after two elected terms in office ‘ as required by the Constitution ‘ and handed over the reins of office to his successor. What made this relatively simple electoral process so remarkable, however, was the fact that, had one slept through the 21st of March 2005 and missed the celebrations and the ensuing calm, one would not have been the wiser that the steersman at the helm of the ship called Namibia had changed. Not a ripple was either seen or felt. The process went as smoothly as any, maybe even more seasoned, democracy could have hoped for.

The man, whom many had seen as a person who would follow and stay in the footsteps of the founding president, quietly took his place in State House and Namibia kept operating without a hitch.

Our neighbour, Zambia, who celebrated their 42nd independence anniversary from British colonialism on Tuesday, experienced only isolated bouts of violence after President Levy Mwanawasa was re-elected for second and last term. This has quietened down though, and the country has accepted the poll outcome.

The fact that the various election observers certified the polls to be free and fair, is nothing but a demonstration that our Zambian brothers and sisters are united in purpose and committed to democracy and good governance.

As this is being read, a run-off election is being held in the Democratic Republic of Congo between the incumbent president, Joseph Kabila, and his closest rival, Jean-Pierre Bemba.

This country, which has been in turmoil from the late 50s of the previous century when it was still known as the “Belgian Congo”, through to the assassination of Patrice Lumumba in 1961 and, subsequently, the excesses of Mobutu Sese-Seko, who had seized power from President Joseph Kasavubu in 1965, and, in turn, was overthrown by the father of the current incumbent, Laurent Kabila.

Joseph Kabila, 35, president of the Congo’s transitional or post-war government since the assassination of his father in 2001, did not gain enough of the vote in a first round of general elections in late July, to win the presidency outright and this forced the run-off election being held today.

Shortly before the results of that election were announced, fighting broke between his supporters and those of Bemba, which led to the death of at least 23 people.

As the second election day drew nearer, there have again been reports of clashes between Kabila’s and Bemba’s backers, raising fears of a repeat of the street fighting that hit Kinshasa in August.

One can only trust that the citizens of the DRC put national interests before personal or regional interests and that the result of today’s election will be accepted by all, whichever way it turns out.

Madagascar will complete southern Africa’s 2006 calendar for presidential elections with its 3 December poll that has attracted 13 challengers to face Marc Ravalomanana, the incumbent president.

The election comes against a background of the controversial aftermath of the 2002 poll in which two rival candidates claimed the presidency, threatening stability and security on the Indian Ocean island. Africa in general and Southern Africa in particular has in recent years been able to show the world that significant progress could be made where it counted most: democracy and good governance.

It is incumbent upon all of us to ensure that this achievement is not of a temporary nature, but will become entrenched and second nature to our region, in all the elections that are next year and beyond.

After all, there is always something new out of Africa ‘ so, why not peace, stability and democracy?

October 2006
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