February 28, 2017

Looking Beyond the Crisis: ABA ROLI Works to Strengthen Electoral Process in the DRC

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is on the verge of breaking what seemed to be a substantial path to democratic consolidation that followed three previous decades of authoritarian rule. Elections for a new president were scheduled to take place in November, but they have been postponed to 2018 by the Kabila government. This decision has been vigorously rejected by opposition groups and has led to protests and unrest in several towns, notably the capital city, Kinshasa.

In the DRC and across Africa, failures of electoral systems are a constant threat to stability, democratic rule and human rights. Attention from the international community often focuses predominantly on the short window of time before, during and after elections. However, between electoral seasons, it is fundamental to address the various structural conditions that determine the success of elections when people go to the ballots.

The American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) is implementing a project in the DRC to address the conditions that lead to electoral instability in the long run. ABA ROLI’s work seeks to strengthen electoral systems both at the national level in Kinshasa, and provincial levels by engaging civil society organizations (CSOs), government institutions and the country’s National Human Rights Commission.

ABA ROLI is working with civil society in Kinshasa, Goma, Bukavu, Lubumbashi and Mbuji Mayi to support its engagement in contributing to stronger, more transparent elections processes. The approach seeks to strengthen the organizational capacity of key partners, as well as their areas of expertise. ABA ROLI is supporting both the managerial and financial capacities of key CSOs as well as their ability to provide legal aid to populations affected by lack of participation or by election-related violence. Additionally, ABA ROLI is launching its support to the recently-established National Human Rights Commission to strengthen its capacity to uphold human rights, including by providing specialized training on methodologies to engage with civil society actors, as well as supporting its participation in civil society.

In the long run, what is at stake is the ability of the DRC to remain on its path to democratic consolidation and a truly participatory electoral process. ABA ROLI hopes to contribute to this important and ambitious goal by working with partners over the next three years.

To learn more about our work in the Democratic Republic of Congo, please contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at rol@americanbar.org