Free elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are Canada’s business

Dr congo protester
People in Kinshasa rally to protest President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down despite the expiry of his mandate.

The marches have been organized by the Catholic Church, which brokered a deal with Kabila on New Year’s Eve 2016 to prevent the country from descending into civil war. The church has invested in the country’s hopes for democracy. It trained electoral observers for nearly all polling stations in the 2011 elections, and is currently running a civic education program with support from Development and Peace – Caritas Canada and the Canadian government that has reached close to nine million Congolese people.

The initial elation of the New Year’s Eve agreement, however, has turned to frustration as deadlines for electoral preparations have been missed. After a short moratorium, the church has announced that marches will soon resume. Once again, civilians will be putting their lives on the line for the right to free and fair elections.

Many Canadians carry a piece of the DRC in their pockets or backpacks: most cellphones and laptops use coltan, a mineral found almost exclusively in the DRC and mined by some of the poorest people on the planet, including children. And despite the skyrocketing price of cobalt, which is also mined in the DRC, the country’s public coffers remain empty.

In addition, many Canadian mining companies take part in the exploitation of the DRC’s vast mineral wealth, boosting our economy while its citizens reap only conflict and misery. We cannot continue to benefit from these resources while turning a blind eye to the suffering of those who provide them.

We must do more to ensure that fair elections take place this December in the DRC, and champion those willing to risk their lives for the rights and freedoms that will ensure an accountable and strong democracy.

Canada will soon be hosting the seven richest countries in the world, nearly all of which have investments in the DRC. Canada must get a commitment from the international community to maintain pressure on Kabila to uphold an electoral process that reflects the will of the people.

Canada has shown interest in a seat on the UN Security Council, yet it has sent only nine members of the Canadian Forces to the UN’s peacekeeping mission in the DRC.

Since the days of colonialism, the people of the DRC have known foreign intervention for all the wrong reasons. Let Canada show another way, one that lifts the people as they lead the way toward a better future.