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Many Congolese Believe Christmas Spirit Won't Arrive Until After Elections

Dec 25, 2018
Originally published on December 25, 2018 5:56 am
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NOEL KING, HOST:

All right. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, there's a distinct lack of Christmas cheer this year. The massive country in the heart of Africa is waiting to see whether the long delayed presidential election will really happen this coming Sunday, as NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports from the capital of Kinshasa.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Christmas Eve in downtown Kinshasa, but you just don't feel the Christmas spirit in the air. Somehow, Congolese feel they can't celebrate until these elections are held.

Bonjour. Ma'am, what's your name, please? (Speaking French).

SANDRA MOKOKO: Sandra - Sandra Mokoko (ph).

QUIST-ARCTON: Madame Mokoko, I see you with a few bags. Have you been able to do any Christmas shopping? (Speaking French).

MOKOKO: (Speaking French).

QUIST-ARCTON: Sandra Mokoko a mother of two, echoes what many Congolese are saying: Christmas is looking grim. We are suffering, and we have no money to buy food or anything special for the children, she says.

MOKOKO: (Speaking French).

QUIST-ARCTON: Then she gets angry. "We're fed up. We've had enough," says Sandra Mokoko. "We're suffering in Congo, and we want change." She says, "our leaders and their families are eating well this Christmas while we have nothing. We want elections, nothing but elections - now. If we don't vote on September 30 as they've promised, then we'll all be on the streets with our children to drive out President Kabila and his regime once and for all," says a frustrated Mokoko. Joseph Kabila is poised to step down after 18 years in power in Congo, the last two as a much contested caretaker president while elections were delayed.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FRIDOLIN AMBONGO BESUNGU: (Foreign language spoken).

QUIST-ARCTON: Congo is Africa's leading Catholic country, and the outspoken bishops here have been instrumental in mediating a road map to elections in a checkered peace process between the government and the opposition. At midnight mass, the new archbishop of Kinshasa, Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, said that real peace will only come through credible elections that he warns must not be delayed again in Congo.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

AMBONGO: (Foreign language spoken).

QUIST-ARCTON: And, said the archbishop, to loud applause in the cathedral, the results of the elections must reflect the true will of the Congolese people.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Kinshasa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.