Title: CONGO DEMOCRATIC
Photographer(s): Guy Tillim
Writer(s): Guy Tillim
Designer(s): Michael Stevenson, Guy Tillim,Gabrielle Guy
Publisher(s): Renate Wiehager, Michael Stevenson, Extraspazio, Cape Town, Roma, South Africa-Italy
Size: 30 x 42 cm
Print: Sommer Corporate Media, Waiblingen, Germany
Nation(s) and year(s) of Protest: Congo,2006
Guy Tillim took this series of images in July 2006 during the weeks of the Democratic Republic of Congo's first general election held since successive conflicts in the late 1990s killed 3.5 million people. The images mirror the political wasteland and civic disorder that resulted from the rivalry between presidential candidates Etinenne Tshisikedi and President Josef Kabila.
"Successive wars in Congo, one started in 1996 and the other in 1998, left the country devastated. After five years of fighting and some 3.5 million mostly civilian deaths, an agreement was reached in 2003 allowing for general elections and a new constitution by 2005. In July 2006, some 3,400 candidates stood to fill the 500 Assembly House seats, 800 of them on the ballot in Kinshasa. There were 33 presidential candidates. For example, election slogans and banners did not say 'Vote Adam Bombole, Health for All', but 'Vote Adam Bombole, Page 3 No. 438'.
Etienne Tshisikedi, a veteran former minister under Mobutu Sese Seko, called for a boycott of the elections. Young people in Kinshasa fought on his behalf with the police, who tore and burned campaign paraphernalia in his name, particularly the face of President Josef Kabila, who was running as an independent candidate despite being described as the 'initiator' of popular reconstruction, and the listed Democracy Party, who chose him as their candidate, treated him with particular hostility.
I asked a Congolese friend if he had any theories about the large number of candidates. "Visibility is everything," he told me. 'Put yourself on a list so that by the next event, maybe a peace agreement where power and influence are shared, you will be somewhere on that list. Kabila and his main rival, Jean-Pierre Bemba, who were at war with each other and separate armies of control now camped in Kinshasa unofficially shared this spoils for years.
The streets of Kinshasa reflected the political desolation and civil unrest resulting from the war between these two men. But there is a good chance that 450 million dollars spent mainly by the European Union on elections will turn this rivalry into a constitutional debate'.