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Cablegate: University Students Skeptical About Upcoming

VZCZCXRO3102
PP RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR
DE RUEHKI #0963/01 1701012
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 191012Z JUN 06
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4145
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KINSHASA 000963

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O.12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KPAO KDEM CG ELECTIONS
SUBJECT: UNIVERSITY STUDENTS SKEPTICAL ABOUT UPCOMING
ELECTIONS


1. (SBU) Summary: Many Congolese university students,
particularly in the capital, have little faith in the
elections or the transparency of the electoral process.
Many say they see scant benefit in voting in an election
when the outcome is assumed to be already set. Others say
they have little incentive to vote or become involved in
the political process, except to protest the lack of
transparency. Many feel powerless to bring about a new
democracy, yet they welcome fora to speak openly about
their concerns. End Summary.

2. (SBU) In April and May 2006, three PolOffs led
discussions about the coming elections at four Congolese
universities in Kinshasa and Kisangani. The visits,
arranged by the PD section, were intended to gain insight
into students' opinions about the upcoming elections and
to provide fora for Congolese students to express their
views about the electoral process. The discussions also
provided PolOffs the opportunity to clarify aspects of the
DRC's constitution and electoral law, which very few
students have read, as well as to highlight USG assistance
to the overall electoral process.

To Vote or Not To Vote
----------------------

3. (SBU) Many students claimed they will not vote in the
upcoming election because they feel that the results of
the election had already been determined, at least at the
presidential level. They alleged that there is "support"
from the international community for one particular
candidate - namely, President Kabila. They expressed
doubt that the electoral system was free, fair or
transparent, and they felt that those parties in power
were disadvantaging or excluding other political parties.
Students saw the credibility of the elections as tarnished
by involvement of the international community, and cited
recent Liberian elections as a negative example of
international intervention in influencing results.

Dissenting Views About the UDPS
-------------------------------

4. (SBU) There are opposing views in Kisangani and
Kinshasa about Etienne Tshisekedi's Union for Democracy
and Social Progress (UDPS). Traditionally, UDPS support
has been strongest in the Kasais and in Kinshasa. Thus,
at the University of Kisangani, there appeared to be
little sympathy for either the party's positions, or for
delaying the elections. By contrast, in Kinshasa there
was evidence of much support of the UDPS's position. Many
of the students pushed for the inclusion of the UDPS,
either through reopening voter registration or through a
new political "dialogue." There were also militant
sentiments expressed; one student at the University of
Kinshasa (UniKin) stated that, if the UDPS were not
included in elections, the "17,000 MONUC troops wouldn't
be enough to keep the UDPS down."

Freedom of Information, Security, and Free Speech
--------------------------------------------- ----

5. (SBU) Students decried a general lack of information
about the candidates and poor media coverage. (Note: The
official campaign period does not begin until June 29.
End note.) Students were worried about insecurity and the
threat posed by armed groups, particularly in the eastern
part of the country, but also by private security forces
of certain candidates. One student at ISTA, a vocational
school in Kinshasa, commented, "To speak and be heard in
the DRC you need a gun." Some students argued that unless
the brassage, or integration, of the military was
complete, the elections could not move forward. There
were fears about the potential of candidates' inability to
accept defeat leading to violence after results are
announced.

6. (SBU) Students also voiced concern about the right for
individuals to freely express their opinions about the
current electoral race. But when pressed on the issue,
they said it was primarily President Kabila they did not
feel free to criticize. Most students felt that they
could criticize parliamentary or provincial candidates
without concern, but they believed that only the

KINSHASA 00000963 002 OF 002


presidential election was important.

Concerns About the Voting and Election Processes
--------------------------------------------- ---

7. (SBU) Some students called for a formal census before
elections. Others voiced concern that the Independent
Electoral Commission (CEI) had set the election date for
July 30 without a "consultation" process. Students
questioned the right of any group to push the date of the
elections beyond the Sun City deadline of June 30.
However, most students seemed not to want to delay the
elections any further at this point. Some faulted the
international community for not doing more to prepare the
Congolese for elections and the post-electoral period.

The Electoral Law
-----------------

8. (SBU) Many students felt that in drafting the electoral
laws and the new constitution the international community
had forced through certain provisions. When asked,
however, most students said they had not actually read the
constitution or electoral laws and relied on what they had
heard on the street or read in the newspapers.

Comment
-------

9. (SBU) Comment: These fora were all well attended and
discussions were lively and often heated. Students
relished the chance to express their opinions in the
presence of U.S. diplomats. That university
administrators facilitated frank exchanges showed the
admittedly skeptical students that there is a growing
commitment in the country to democratic give-and-take and
transparency. University students are of the Congolese
generation that has known only Mobutu, war, and a 16-year
"transition to democracy." Their skepticism is not
surprising, but makes them vulnerable to spoilers,
especially the UDPS. While we spoke with only a small
number of students in a self-selecting audience more prone
to express contrarian views, the groups were
representative enough to demonstrate clearly that there is
a critical lack of accurate election information available
to Congolese voters. End comment.
Meece

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