The Democratic Republic of Congo has made important strides since its first-ever elections in 2006, but this week's vote could put it all at risk
A Congolese volunteer watches ballot boxes in Kinshasa / AP
Though many polling stations lacked a fraction of the necessary ballots and serious pre-election violence broke out in several places, presidential and parliamentary elections took place in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday as scheduled. The campaign was highly contentious; the country is still struggling to recover from nearly two decades of violence, state failure, and general insecurity. The DRC's first democratic elections since independence, in 2006, garnered lots of international attention and financial support. The 2006 polls were also contentious, but they ran remarkably smoothly, especially considering the logistical challenges of holding an election in a country so large and with such weak infrastructure.
Things are harder this year. Donor governments, which have weaker economies and plummeting foreign aid budgets, gave Congolese authorities significantly less money to assist with logistics and transportation for this year's elections. Fewer international observers will monitor fewer polling places and counting centers. Several electoral rallies and protests have turned violent, local tensions are boiling over, and leading opposition candidate Etienne Tshisekedi is now openly calling on his supporters to "terrorize" the government. International observers are increasingly concerned that the elections could result in significant violence. These fears are well-founded and the international community has no viable plans in place to address the consequences if the worst occurs.