Congo-Kinshasa: DR Congo Voters Want Change, and They Want it Now

Voting in Kinshasa (file photo).

Kinshasa — Landu Kumbakidioko does not care who wins Sunday's hotly contested election in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Kinshasa-based barber just wants what the top candidates have promised: a better life in a resource-rich nation with high unemployment and a shocking lack of basic services.

All the candidates running for president are promising to fix the nation’s ailing economy and spread this country’s vast natural wealth to its people. But after years of corruption, crumbling infrastructure and failing services, voters doubt the poll will bring the change they seek.

In Kumbakidioko's neighborhood, just a short drive to the center of Kinshasa, potholes dot the roads, drainage runs in the streets and power and water are scarce.

He charges $5 for a haircut and shave when he can.

“We have a serious problem with electricity," he says. "Every day, we have an outage of electricity from around 10 a.m., and it doesn’t come back until 5 p.m. or even 8 p.m. This is a hardship for us. And we want permanent [regular] electricity.”

But he counts himself lucky to have a job. Many of his customers are unemployed and sit in his shop all day making small talk. Unemployment is estimated at around 46 percent, though reliable statistics can be hard to come by in a nation where the black and gray markets are prevalent.

VOA asked both of the main presidential camps how they will tackle economic challenges. Ruling party presidential candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary was unavailable for comment.

Bbut ruling coalition spokesman Andre-Alain Atundu said Shadary wants to increase government spending and reshape the resource-reliant economy.

"His main idea is to make an open and multi[-faceted] economy," he said. "We say that our economy is based on copper and minerals. We want the economy to be diversified."

Opposition candidate Martin Fayulu, a businessman and former oil executive, told VOA he plans to run the massive country like his successful businesses, by making the nation more attractive to investors.

"We want the people to see that Congo, [as a] destination for business should be one of the first destinations, one of the first choices," he said.

At the barbershop, things are much simpler. Kumbakidioko complained of basic problems, lack of water, high unemployment and poor infrastructure he and said he is tired of broken political promises and rampant corruption. He said he just wants politicians to give citizens the basic services they deserve.

And if that fails, Kumbakidioko said he might take a stab at the messy world of politics.

"I love politics," he says. "Maybe one day if I get the chance, I’ll embrace a political career.”

But for now he'll remain a barber, Kumbakidioko said, as he sweeps a straight razor over a client's Adam's apple, clearing it of tiny, invisible hairs. Congo's politics, he says, "are just too cutthroat."

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