DR Congo elections: The road to a coup?

Image copyright AFP Image caption The elected President of Congo-Brazzaville fled and his Vice-President went into hiding The loss of a presidential election, prompted by a violent ballot box stuffing case, has brought coups…

DR Congo elections: The road to a coup?

Image copyright AFP Image caption The elected President of Congo-Brazzaville fled and his Vice-President went into hiding

The loss of a presidential election, prompted by a violent ballot box stuffing case, has brought coups in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo Brazzaville.

Violence has been widespread in recent weeks.

Over the past 10 years, South Africa and Burundi have also seen violent uprisings following elections that ended peacefully.

Has the political arena become more dangerous?

The fact that violence is spreading from the countryside to the city could be a response to the increased numbers of dictators in Africa, says Col Ian Canty, head of peacekeeping at Amnesty International.

“Elections across the continent have become far more routine in recent years. If elections are conducted like normal things, traditional syndicates of political parties step in after the poll to fill the void and change the trajectory of the country,” he said.

But “fear is a powerful motivator” and the violent protests in Democratic Republic of Congo have the “twin outcome of toppling the government and forcing concessions from the opposition”.

The vote in DR Congo was marred by the arrest of opposition leaders. The run-up was marked by publications of a massive list of voters with fictitious names.

Image copyright AFP Image caption The regime of Denis Sassou Nguesso – who was president of Republic of Congo from 1992 to 2015 – fled in the face of a pro-democracy uprising in the late 1990s

Could coups ever succeed?

Although there is no magic number of coups that ensure a successful transfer of power, a time will come when coups become an “acceptable option”, says Col Canty.

“The challenge is trying to identify a crisis that is actually a crisis and where a popular uprising has developed and where there are both the likelihood of violence but also a strong influence on the economy.

“What is driving things is people’s frustration and their desperation – particularly among the young population – and where that can take place is only sometimes in an organic way.”

The vast size of African states and, in recent years, technological advances, including the use of drones to deliver elections results, have “opened the doors to everybody”, says Col Canty.

“It doesn’t mean that coups are inevitable, but they will be opportunistic.”

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