The Carter Center has remained in the DRC following its November 2006 election observation mission, to join with Congolese civil society in the protection of human rights.
The Carter Center observed the DRC's Nov. 28, 2011, presidential and parliamentary elections, deploying long-term observers in August 2011 and a 70-person delegation closer to election day.
Preliminary findings included that the Independent Electoral Commission's administration of the election was fraught with logistical and budgetary challenges. On multiple important election preparations, commission operations deviated from the electoral calendar. The Carter Center found the provisional presidential election results announced by the election commission lacked credibility. Read the full report >
The Carter Center deployed long-term observers in April 2006 ahead of the country's July 30 presidential and parliamentary elections; they were joined by a larger delegation ahead of election day.
Voting was calm and orderly throughout most of the DRC — a major milestone for the democratic process. High voter turnout was another indication of the strong desire on the part of the population finally to choose its own leaders. In the vast majority of cases, polling station staff took their responsibilities very seriously and worked diligently, throughout the night and in difficult conditions, to complete the counting process.
No candidate won a 50 percent plus one majority of the vote, so a runoff election was scheduled between the top two candidates for Oct. 29.
The Carter Center sent a 45-member international delegation to observe the DRC's presidential runoff elections, which were orderly and peaceful in most parts of the country. The elections were well-administered, bearing testimony to the accumulated experience of the many thousands of election workers over three democratic exercises held in less than a year.
The delegation noted that instances of disruption or attempted manipulation of the electoral process, while serious in a few cases, appeared isolated and unlikely to affect the overall success of the vote.
On Nov. 28, 2006, Jean-Pierre Bemba accepted defeat after his legal challenge to the election result was thrown out by the DRC's Supreme Court. The former rebel leader received 42 percent of the runoff votes compared to Joseph Kabila's 58 percent.
In 2007, The Carter Center began working on various programs to help consolidate progress toward democracy following the country's first democratic elections in 40 years. The task of building and sustaining democratic institutions has proven even more difficult than organizing the 2006 election, which was considered one of the world's most complex logistical challenges. In 2011, the DRC once again held a national election that presented similar challenges in a country that is the size of Western Europe.
Civil society organizations are critical partners and actors in the public policy sphere and as such, are essential in the protection of fundamental freedoms and the development of democratic governance. They act as independent watchdogs and advocates of human rights and are important service providers, often responding to the needs of communities at the grassroots level. In collaboration with these organizations and a wide range of other actors in the DRC, The Carter Center designed a series of initiatives to strengthen the justice sector, to create transparency and accountability in the mining sector, and to bolster the capacity of civil society organizations.
The Carter Center launched — and sustains — a civil society support center in Kinshasa called the Human Rights House, with the support of the governments of the Netherlands, Sweden, the United States, and Belgium. The Human Rights House provides quality training and technical support to 154 NGO partners in a range of subjects including project design, financial management and fundraising, human rights violations investigation and reporting, conflict resolution and negotiation, and advocacy.
The Human Rights House also has served as a dialogue forum and conference center, attracting members of Congolese civil society, Congolese government officials, members of the international donor community, and the media to discuss issues surrounding international human rights treaties, the role of an independent media, and the role of the International Criminal Court. The Human Rights House has a computer center and library where civil society leaders and students can access numerous human rights publications and training modules and network with other human rights communities in the DRC and other parts of Africa.
With funding from the government of Belgium, the Center worked in collaboration with Columbia Law School's Human Rights Clinic to complete a review of 60 mining contracts in the DRC at the invitation of the Congolese government and in collaboration with Congolese civil society organizations. A November 2007 report (PDF) detailed the problems found during the review and included the Carter Center's recommendations for next steps. The DRC is one of the most mineral-rich nations on earth, yet its citizens have seen little benefit from these resources due to corruption and faulty contracts between mining companies and the government.
The Carter Center launched the second phase of the project to advance reform in the mining sector in December 2009, again with funding from the Belgian government. This included mining contract negotiations, training NGOs to conduct human rights impact assessments in mining communities, and bringing technical expertise to multi-stakeholder meetings convened for policy dialogue and joint problem-solving in mining practice. This second phase built a sustainable means for Congolese and international civil society to access and supplement the scattered bulk of extractive industry information through the CongoMines website, launched in October 2011(http://www.congomines.org). CongoMines is the initiative's primary transparency tool and a first in DRC transparency efforts, currently featuring an information portal and an interactive map that provides a clear view of the industrial mining sector in Katanga province, complemented with legal, financial, and social mapping layers.
The Carter Center's police and judges training initiative improved the ability of these actors to carry out their jobs in accordance with Congolese and international human rights law. The Center offered training in human rights legal frameworks and professional skills needed to uphold human rights standards for the investigation and prosecution of sexual and gender-based violence, the rights of minors, and the right to due process for all detainees.
The Carter Center developed training materials and a curriculum and conducted workshops for 310 police officers and 50 magistrates from 2007-2010. These trainings had an immediate impact on the performance of police and judges. Read more about the Carter Center's police training initiative >
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Size: 2,344,858 square kilometers
Population below poverty line: 63 percent
Life expectancy: 57 years
Ethnic groups: Over 200 African ethnic groups, of which the majority are Bantu; the four largest tribes - Mongo, Luba, Kongo (all Bantu), and the Mangbetu-Azande (Hamitic) make up about 45% of the population
Religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant, Kimbanguist, Muslim, other (includes syncretic sects and indigenous beliefs)
Languages: French (official), Lingala (a lingua franca for trade), Kingwana (a dialect of Kiswahili or Swahili), Kikongo, Tshiluba
Source: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook 2015