Don Foster MP


Don visits the Democratic Republic of Congo with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy

October 31, 2023 by admin in Charity support, News

Earlier this month, Don visited the Democratic Republic of Congo as a representative for the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. With the DRC preparing for a free and fair election at the end of November, during his 3 day stay in the city of Kinshasa, Don helped some of the main parties prepare for the forthcoming elections:

Upon his return, he was asked to submit a few thoughts to the FreeFairDRC website based on his visit…

In Kinshasa, you can buy almost anything from the seat of your car while stuck in the traffic jams. Water bags and bottles, soft drinks and cigarettes top the list as far as I could see. But the most bizarre sight was the success of a young lad who was selling photocopied lists of the candidates for the, hopefully, up-coming Presidential and parliamentary (general assembly) elections. It wouldn’t happen in the UK!

Evidence in the capital that there may be elections at the end of November is clear. UN and EU election observer mission vehicles and people abound. But, as I discovered during my very recent - and first ever - trip to DRC, the logistics of getting everything in place in time is a nightmare.

The figures are stark. There are 400 different political parties although almost none have a nationwide reach and most are confined to activity in very small areas. But it’s still 400 parties. Between them, for the 500 or so seats in the National Assembly, they have registered 18,000 candidates. That’s an average of approaching 40 candidates per seat. So imagine the ballot papers; forty candidates’ names, party logos, photographs and spaces for voters to place a cross. They will be huge. (There are those who question whether, when folded, the ballot papers will get through the slots in the ballot boxes.)

But these ballot papers and ballot boxes aren’t even in the country yet; the printing is still underway in South Africa and the ballot box construction is still taking place in China. Once ready they have to be distributed to 62,000 polling stations across the vast country that is DRC; and distributed to many places without roads and during the rainy season.

I can’t imagine it happening; but then I couldn’t imagine that anyone would buy photocopied lists of election candidates. Maybe, once again, the DRC will exceed expectations.