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November 25, 2008

Listening to Laurent Nkunda’s recent rhetoric, one may think that the warlord has gone through elections, been elected, and now has a mandate to speak on behalf of a sizable portion of the Congolese population.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. No one has elected Laurent Nkunda, or mandated him to speak and wage one of the deadliest wars of our times on their behalf. The truth is, Laurent Nkunda has imposed himself on a population that had just elected its leaders less than two years ago in what most national and international observers have called free and fair elections.

There is a lot to disagree with about the way the country has been governed since the 2006 elections. But, at least the current government in Kinshasa can claim with confidence to be speaking on behalf of those who elected its leaders.

There is an elected President, a national Parliament, provincial Governors and Parliaments. The Congolese people expressed their desire for peace, democracy and rejection of war, through what national and international observers called fair and free elections in 2006. Rebels who run in those elections, and were seen as allied or backed by Rwanda, were soundly defeated.

But don’t bother asking warlord Laurent Nkunda about elections, or democracy. It would simply be an exercise in futility. Laurent Nkunda doesn’t believe in democracy. Especially since he knows quit well that he will never get elected if he ever runs for elected office. Not in North Kivu and certainly not nationwide.

Laurent Nkunda would like people to believe that he is popular in some corners of North Kivu. I wonder why he has never run for office or suggested new elections as a way out of this war. I am sure the Congolese government would be more than glad to let the people decide if they want Laurent Nkunda as their leader.

Instead of making empty threats that he is going to overthrow an elected government, if Laurent Nkunda is a true leader, loved by many, he should be calling for new elections instead. Of course, this will never happen. Free and fair elections would only proove to the world how unpopular Laurent Nkunda and his rebels really are.

So, on whose behalf is Laurent Nkunda speaking? Who has elected him and appointed him as their spokesperson? First he claimed he was fighting to protect the Tutsi minority in North Kivu against Rwandan Hutu militiamen. He is now claiming he wants to “liberate the Congo” and overthrow the elected government in Kinshasa. This is a clear attack on democracy which has been condemned all over the world. He is also trying to force the government to negotiate with him and give him what he cannot get through democratic elections, a seat at the table.

President Joseph Kabila and the Congolese government certainly have the democratic right to negotiate with whom they want, and name who they see fit to the government. However, as long as the Congolese people do not support the rebels, they will make sure their voice is heard loud and clear during the next elections. We will then be back in the same situation we find ourselves in today. Those who cannot win a seat at the table trough democratic elections will once again seek to invite themselves to power by brandishing guns and holding an entire population hostage.