Elections and Civilian Protection: Voting in the DRC and its aftermath

I have another post up at UN Dispatch. This time, on the elections in the DR Congo. Feel free to read here.

In my initial draft, I had a bit more of a focus on the sanctions that the UNSC currently has in place on the DR Congo, which are due to expire at the end of the month. That got nixed in the editorial process to focus solely on the elections, which makes sense. But I’m including the cut paragraphs here, as I a) still rather like them, and b) think it’s important to remember that these sanctions exist and are in place for a reason.

As mentioned earlier, the UN Security Council has a close eye on the outcome of the elections. The UNSC has had a multitude of sanctions in place on the DRC since 2003, when it imposed an arms embargo on the state. Resolution 1493’s initial arms embargo has subsequently been strengthened and supplemented with accompanying travel and financial freezes on those spreading violence throughout the Congo, as well as modified to only affect non-governmental entities and individuals operating in the eastern areas of the DRC. These measures have been renewed every year since their implementation, with the expiration for 2010’s re-upping due to expire on November 30, 2011.

It is more than likely that the provisions of the Security Council’s sanctions will be upheld before the week expires. The next few days after the election concludes, including the announcement of the results, are crucial in determining whether an explosion of violence is imminent. The odds are higher than many are comfortable with that the likely top two vote-getters, incumbent Joseph Kabila and opposition leader Etienne Tsvangrai, will claim fraud in the event of a loss. In such an instance, the absolute last thing that the Democratic Republic of the Congo needs is a new influx of small-arms. Arms dealers work with enough impunity already within Congo’s borders, despite the best efforts of the MONUSCO peacekeeping force, the largest in the world. The arms embargo and other provisions must remain in place for at least another six months, until the effects of this election are truly known.

Despite the wishes of many international observers and advocates of democracy, elections are not the hard and fast endpoint of violence within states that have had a history of conflict. Armed resistance groups are no less of a threat in the aftermath of an election, but have the potential to thrive in the chaos of a contested result.

Here’s hoping it doesn’t come to violence in the DRC, though.

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