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What the Uproar Over Congo’s Elections Misses

The Local Roots of the Country’s Problems

Congolese soldiers on patrol in North Kivu, November 2013. Therese Di Campo / REUTERS

Over the past year, as the Democratic Republic of the Congo has descended into a political crisis, journalists, activists, foreign diplomats, and the leaders of international and nongovernmental organizations have focused mostly on the drama surrounding President Joseph Kabila’s attempts to cling to power by delaying elections.

This narrow political focus recalls the outside world’s approach to Congo the last times the country prepared for general elections, in 2006 and 2011. Now, as then, the preoccupation with elections distracts from the issues whose resolutions are most likely to lead to peace: the poverty, unemployment, corruption, criminality, and poor access to land, justice, and education that are at the root of Congo’s long-standing violence.

Bringing peace and prosperity to Congo will require a change in attitude, away from the crisis in Kinshasa and toward the local actors who have the power to address the deeper sources of the country's troubles.

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