After more than two months of wrangling and politicking and counting and violence and false starts, the Congolese went to the polls on Sunday in the runoff election pitting incumbent Joseph Kabila and Jean-Pierre Bemba, the former warlord whose main areas of strength are in the most anarchic regions of the DRC. Kabila ought to win handily, as he claimed 45% of the tally in the multi-candidate first round of voting. Because of infrastructural and logistical issues (such as the fact that the DRC is the size of Western Europe but has about 320 kilometers of paved roads) results may not be known until mid-November. Which leaves plenty of time for shenanigans and violence, such as the mob rioting and violence that swept through the most volatile part of the country, the region's northeast, today. The long and tedious and potentially fraught process of counting the vote is now underway.
This election will not provide the panacea that the Congo and its people wish were on the way. But in Africa hope sometimes is all that remains. Perhaps these are the tentative first steps toward something good, toward stability and peace and opportunity and maybe a little bit of luck. I have a hard time being optimistic. But for now I'll hold on to hope in the face of long odds.