Four Shades of Developing Democracy

Citizens of ‘the west’ take democracy – or the representative democracies – of their nation states for granted. Many of those selfsame countries have histories of imperialism, so the ‘retreat from empire’ since the mid-20th century has presented both problems and opportunities as colonial rule gave way to autocracy. More recently, their political evolution has been encouraged through advice, guidance and education – from those with personal experience.

For politicians, their vocation starts with getting elected. For some, life in the governmental process lasts until retirement. For others, such careers are far shorter. So, just four years after winning the seat of Leeds West in northern England for the Liberals in 1983, rather than thriving as an MP in Westminster, I found myself surviving as a freelance journalist. 

Serendipity, fate or coincidence, call it what you will, then affected my life as each does many others. Firstly, I was persuaded to become chair of the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) and, then, a year later, Mikhail Gorbachev began the implosion of the Soviet Union. As well as campaigning for changing the electoral system from ‘first past the post’ in most of the UK’s parliamentary elections, the ERS provides services running independent ballots for organisations such as trade unions. Additionally, the ERS has been in the democracy ‘field’ since 1884 and assistance to fledgling democracies has been around a long time too. 

However, the burgeoning of an entire industry quickly followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, as a swathe of new democracies clamoured for assistance, anxious for advice. Many gravitated to the ERS, where these unique coincidences began 25 years – and continuing – of pro-democracy work with more than 50 missions to 36 countries. The circuit is close-knit, bringing together specialists who include logisticians, trainers, civic educationalists, media specialists, election administrators and political ‘fixers’, with perhaps around 200 regulars, most of whom know each other. Many missions concentrate on the electoral process itself, with either technical assistance or monitoring. Some also involve assisting with the development of parliamentary processes, establishing and underpinning political parties and ensuring the transition to democracy. 

My extended world tour has produced many tales of survival, combined with vignettes about coping in difficult countries as well as lessons on what works, and what does not work, in helping new and emerging democracies. The nature of each assignment is such that it often takes places in difficult if not dangerous places. Just about all the colleagues I’ve known accept every invitation on principal, believing that one ought to be prepared to be involved and that the institutions organising the work, together with the people on the ground, know the situation well and will make the appropriate arrangements.

However, the question of security is not as straightforward as it might seem.

In Serbia in 1992 at the time of the Slobodan Milosovic regime, when the European Union (EU) monitoring team was manifestly unpopular, I was in a group preparing to drive from Belgrade towards the border with Kosovo. The British chargé d’affaires recommended that we should have no visible security vehicle with us as it would only attract potentially unwelcome attention. Westminster was rarely like this.

Sometimes decisions go against one's instinct. In Palestine in 1996, for instance, the EU observer mission’s cars were entitled to have CD - Corps Diplomatique - numberplates. However, it was apparent that the Israeli government was chiefly concerned about Jerusalem and less so the West Bank, and I had therefore become the mission’s adviser on Jerusalem, desperately seeking Israeli cartographers - all of them helpful - in order to track down potential Palestinian voters in the city to get them on the electoral register. We also had to oversee the use of post offices in East Jerusalem as polling stations and to arrange transport to outlying polling stations.

Being based in the city it seemed to me to be better to have blue Jerusalem plates on my car as these were permitted to travel everywhere in Israel and the West Bank and thus stood out less than CD plates. My driver, Murad, was somewhat of an anomaly. He was nineteen and unmarried and had been accredited as a driver by the Israeli authorities even though they had said that they would only accredit drivers aged over twenty-nine and married, on the simplistic basis that had never known a “terrorist” who conformed to such an age and marital status!

Murad was quite naively extrovert when with me. We would go together into a West Jerusalem bookshop and he would quite innocently ask the cashier if she spoke Arabic. It usually brought a startled negative! However, Murad would never let me leave him on his own in the car in West Jerusalem, even if I was only going to be gone for a moment. From experience he was worried at what might happen if the Israeli security forces came across a lone young Palestinian in a posh car.

Our mission followed on from the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin in November 1995 and there was a widespread desire amongst the Jerusalem Jewish residents for the Palestinian elections to succeed and for them to be a step towards a long-term peace solution.

Alas, the attitude of the Israeli Defence Force was very different.

Early on polling day the officer commanding the IDF on duty in the city approached me and expressed the hope that we would have a peaceful and fruitful election. I thought this a good sign but, within minutes of the poll opening, IDF soldiers were sent into the post offices to drag voters out by force. Then the commander posted hundreds of soldiers at the entrance to all the post offices and, of course, few Palestinian voters would run the gamut of this oppressive military presence. I pulled my international observers out of the main polling station itself and placed them at the entrance to give voters the confidence to enter.

Another afternoon, with a few hours free, my wife and I, plus Murad, were in the Old City. We passed through two checkpoints but then came to the last one before the Western Wall, the holiest site in Jerusalem for Jews. The soldiers examined my and my wife’s credentials and indicated that we could continue but said, rather roughly, to Murad that he could not. Murad, being well used to such attitudes, shrugged and prepared to wait for us.

At this point a senior IDF officer appeared and asked what was going on. I explained who we were in relation to the election and that Murad was my driver. The officer examined our papers and Murad’s accreditation, handed these back and said to Murad, “You can go down.” So all three of us, including this young Muslim, went down to the Western Wall. Murad was amazed and that single decision did an immense amount for relationships between Israel and at least one Palestinian.

The election was difficult but, despite the severe pressures, its administration was efficient and it produced accurate and legitimate results with a 72% turnout of voters.

Afterwards the regular problem of not using the time gained from a good election to entrench and enhance government and parliament was evident again.

Back in the UK I went to debrief with the appropriate officer at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)  in Whitehall. I made the vital point that we needed to follow up the election. “There are eighty-eight individuals elected to the legislature,” I said, “who have never sat in an assembly and urgently need advice.” “Don’t worry, Michael,” responded the official, “We’re sending a clerk from the House of Commons.” What was wanted was political help - how to manage a group of representatives, how to use “informal” channels etc but it did not happen.

I have done three missions to the Republic of Georgia. The first in 1992, at the request of the FCO, was to carry out an evaluation of the governance situation and the preparations for the first democratic election.

My instructions were to go via our embassy in Moscow for briefing. I called the embassy to arrange an appointment. “For heaven’s sake, don’t come here. We have no idea of the current situation in Georgia - but let us know afterwards what you find! In any case, given the fuel situation, you might be stuck here Moscow without a flight out.”

So I went direct to Tbilisi, via Istanbul, did all the necessary interviews and research and reported back to the FCO - and the embassy.

A later American National Democratic Institute (NDI) monitoring mission was not without incident. One of the leading Georgian politicians, Vakhtang Khmaladze, who was clearly well-versed in electoral systems, had formulated a scheme for the use of the Single Transferable Vote and had persuaded the authorities to adopt this for the forthcoming elections.

Then, towards polling day, Professor Ivan Kighuradze, who chaired the Georgian Election Commission, threatened to resign if STV was used, and the parliament succumbed to this pressure.

On Kighuradze’s recommendation a curious system was adopted which gave three points to a voter’s first choice, two points for their second, and one for their third! I pointed out that this would lead to many seats having to be allocated from a national list as opposed to the local constituencies, which duly happened.

During the campaign the monitoring team decided that it should meet representatives of the former president Gamsakhurdia. He had originally been democratically elected but when, in 1991, having backed the short-lived coup against Gorbachev, he was accused of acting dictatorially he refused to leave office and had eventually to be forced out by military action. His party was banned but he still had significant support in the country, hence the decision to consult his supporters.

They were contacted but were too fearful of reprisals to meet us. We persevered and, eventually, they said we had to be on the main street, Rustaveli Avenue, by Rustaveli’s statue at a set time. Four of us gathered there, and four cars arrived to whisk each of us away separately to a safe house. They still regarded Gamsakhurdia as the legitimate president and said it was important that we met him in exile in Grozny, Chechnya.

We were returned to the centre of Tbilisi and went back to the Electoral Commission. Was it possible, we asked, to go to Grozny? “No problem at all,” was the response, “Unless you want to come back!” We decided against pursuing our journey.

Professor Kighuradze, the same chair of the Electoral Commission, complained to us that the secessionist province of South Ossetia was refusing to participate in the election. The Commission’s efforts had failed to have an effect and he asked if I was prepared to go there to persuade them. I responded that it wasn’t in my job description, but I was prepared to try. My interpreter then refused to accompany me and my driver said he would not take his best car!

Another interpreter on the team agreed to go and we began to make arrangements. However, the rebels refused to meet us and so our efforts at conciliation never got off the ground.

There was a touching moment on the NDI mission. We were staying at the very posh Metechi Hotel in Tbilisi and there was a small jazz group playing in the atrium. As an old jazz man, I took my clarinet on just about every mission and there was always a local band to play with, even if it was only ex-pats.

I asked the local band at the hotel if I could sit in and they readily agreed. We played a few numbers and the pianist, who spoke some English, asked that if I returned to Georgia could I possibly bring some reeds for their clarinettist as he could not buy any in Tbilisi. On my next mission I duly brought a complete box of ten reeds and gave them to him - and he actually wept to have a whole box of new reeds. Another example of how we take things for granted in the West.

The 1992 elections in Georgia were a popular coronation of Eduard Shevarnadze as Head of State - in a 75% turnout of electors just 2% voted against him. However, the parliamentary elections held simultaneously were a different matter and were keenly fought by competing parties, twenty-four of which secured at least one seat.  I was part of a group of international observers deployed to Kutaisi in Mingralia province where the security was such that fifteen polling stations had to be concentrated in a single school building. 

We were flown there from Tblisi in an Aeroflot ‘executive’ jet – which, despite the enthusiastic description had seat belts that were not anchored. We were perplexed by the louche man, dressed in jeans and a leather jacket, casually smoking a cigarette as he walked down the aisle until he went into the cockpit – and sat down to pilot the plane. Our crossed fingers were effective and we landed safely and were then taken to a huge Intourist hotel which, having been closed for some months, had been specially reopened by its former manager for our exclusive use. It was extremely damp.

With typical Georgian hospitality a huge meal was set out for us at a long table around which we arranged ourselves - five  observers plus interpreters - with our host at the head. Ominously two five litre bottles of wine were in evidence, plus bottles of vodka. Our host, in the Georgian tradition, proposed a toast every time our glasses were refilled, which was frequent - plus a vodka each time for him.

These toasts got longer and longer and eventually the German colleague on my left said to me, “I think we ought respond - I’ll do the next toast.” “OK,” I said, “I’ll translate.” Now, I do not speak German so I improvised. To my ears his toast sounded as if he might have been quoting from Heine’s poem Die Loreley: “Ich weiss nicht was soll es bedeuten,” I jumped up to translate, “We are very honoured to be here in your country,” “Dast ich so traurig bin; ein marchen aus uralten zeiten,” Again I rose, “And to have the privilege of observing your elections.” “Das kommt mir nicht aus dem sinn; die luft ist kuhl und es dunkelt.” I had the bit between my teeth by this time: “We look forward to meeting the Georgian people and to assisting in the electoral process tomorrow.”

As I spoke I caught sight of my colleague’s Georgian interpreter looking extremely puzzled, as if to be thinking, “This isn’t right - but perhaps it is.” When my German friend finally resumed his seat he whispered to me, “You’d be surprised how close you were!” “What else could you be saying?” I replied.

The evening continued and the wine bottles steadily emptied, as did our host’s vodka, until without any warning he passed out, completely drunk! He couldn’t be revived and we the guests ended up carrying our host up to bed! He was up and about early the next morning with apparently no after effects.

The following day we set off on our long tour of polling stations, including spending time at the big school. Before we set off the local police asked us for our itinerary; we explained that it was necessary for the validity of our mission that we arrived unannounced at polling stations and, therefore, we were unable to communicate our itinerary in advance. This was accepted and we set off - with the police car following us. There was one bizarre moment when it ran out of petrol but it soon caught up. Then it sped off ahead of us and was parked outside our next polling station.

Out in the countryside it was fairly easy to guess where we would land up next. On entering we were asked if we would like tea. In Georgia “tea” was code for “Champanski”, the excellent Georgian champagne. We assented, at which point, with a huge smile, a curtain was dramatically swept aside and on a platform behind the polling station was a huge buffet set out on trestle tables! It was another example of the remarkable Georgian hospitality. It was quite possible that similar spreads were set out at every polling station in the area, just in case.

There is a postscript to this tale. Some years later, on another electoral mission, a member of the American International Republican Institute delegation greeted me, “Good to see you again, Michael. The last time we met you were speaking German.” “Not me, I don’t speak German.” “But you did!” Again I denied even the possibility. “Think carefully when this was.”

It finally dawned on me; he had been another observer at the same Georgian election and a fellow guest at the never-to-be-forgotten eve of election dinner.

There was one final twist to this observer mission. When the polling, the count and the declaration were all completed, and our press statement made, the Georgian authorities, to show their thanks for our work and our visit, had chartered an Aeroflot Tupolev 154 to take the whole team direct to Frankfurt. It was not particularly convenient for all the members, given their onward flights, but we accepted with good grace and we all piled on.

As we got close to Frankfurt airport the ‘plane dipped to the right and went round the airport. Then it dipped to the left and went round again. We pondered somewhat anxiously whether the pilot had ever flown into Frankfurt before. Then, with some relief, we landed smoothly, but within seconds we were all thrown forward violently as the pilot slammed the brakes on and a large aircraft passed straight across the front of our ‘plane!

Presumably we had landed in error on a side runway. The pilot then taxied to the stand, we disembarked and normal service was resumed.

The body that took responsibility for supporting democracy in East and Central Europe was the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, (OSCE) from its Warsaw office. I did three successive missions for the OSCE in 1996 - Russia, Bosnia and Bulgaria.

For Bosnia I was asked to take charge of the refugee voting, which, given the forced diaspora during the war in the former Yugoslavia, were spread across the region and beyond. I was asked to base my organisation in Vienna where the large expert organisation for the key election in Bosnia and Herzegovina was being organised. I duly went to Vienna a number of times.. At the key meetings colleagues were stating that they would have to cut corners with the electoral legislation in order to keep to the election timetable. I didn’t object to this, indeed I had done it occasionally myself in other countries, but it was clearly not appropriate for me to be present at such discussions when I had eventually to pronounce on the legitimacy of the process.

By then I had already decided that polling stations would be needed in twenty-three countries. The main concentration of Bosnian refugees was in Serbia, Croatia and Germany but there were enough in the other countries to justify opening polling stations elsewhere too. Given this wide geographic spread of countries, no single place was more convenient than another and I decided to organise everything from my office in Leeds, travelling as necessary to Belgrade, Zagreb, Bonn and, of course, Sarajevo to report in the latter to the head of the overall monitoring mission based there, Ed van Thijn, a former Mayor of Amsterdam.

Knowing that life in Sarajevo so soon after the war was still somewhat spartan, I always took a few bottles of decent wine with me. Ed kept a diary which he later published but only in Dutch. Sometime later a Dutch colleague mentioned this book and told me that I figured in it but only as the Brit who regularly arrived bringing wine. There was no mention of my carefully prepared reports on the refugee voting.

Despite regular enquiries I could not find out what my budget was for the refugee vote monitoring. Then, after yet another request at a Vienna meeting, a senior team member, Judy Thomas from Elections Canada, told me that the figure was $2 million. I was astonished, and said so. “Well,“ commented Judy, “It was assumed that you would use parliamentarians as international observers and this would be very expensive.”

I certainly had no intention of using any parliamentarian if at all avoidable. My long experience was that too many of them tended to view the mission as an opportunity for “electoral tourism” with some even using the opportunity to do personal financial deals. Instead I recruited international aid workers, teachers and church staff who for $50 each were very happy to do a very assiduous job. If I could not locate such individuals in some of the more remote countries, such as Albania, I contacted George Soros’ splendid Open Society Foundation offices which were invariably able to provide excellent individuals. The whole operation cost $70,000!

After the next OSCE mission in Bulgaria for which I was already hired, I was never asked again to work for OSCE. I suspect I had destroyed their whole accounting system.

I managed to stave off a potentially serious international incident during this election. We had had problems with the Croatian government in relation to accrediting OSCE observers as they were insisting that observers in Croatia had also to have a Croatian government accreditation. We said no way and insisted that this was an international mission, working in twenty-three different countries, on behalf of the refugees and under the auspices of the much respected OSCE. Eventually the Croatians backed down and, I thought, all would now be well.

The refugee elections were due to take place on two consecutive days, a week before the main election. Early on the first polling day I suddenly got an urgent fax from my co-ordinator in Croatia telling me that the Croatian authorities had reneged and were insisting on observers having Croatian accreditation before entering polling stations.

I dropped everything else to start phoning and faxing Zagreb, Warsaw and Sarajevo.

One incoming meesage was a personal fax from the office of the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Carl Bildt, ie the individual actually running the country, to say that I was authorised to say to the Croatian authorities that, unless they backed down they would not be allowed to observe at the main elections in a week’s time. I was astonished. In the context of the delicate relationships across the countries of the former Yugoslavia this was clearly inflammatory.

I did not pass this message on and, fortunately, the Croatian authorities backed down. I immediately sent a fax to all our observers, apologising for the problems they had had but assuring them that all would be well the following day. I immediately started getting replies from observers, saying that they had not had any problems and had been admitted to polling stations without let or hindrance. It appeared that the Croatian government did not have the logistical capacity to be in contact with polling stations. All the frantic activity had been unnecessary.

Democratic Republic of the Congo
With some reluctance I took part on EU mission to Kinshasa as advisor to the DRC Election Commission over 2004-2005, not least that it was a long project - fourteen months - which would take me out of domestic politics at an important time, leading up to the UK general election. The fact was that I had little choice but to take the next invitation that arrived - my bank manager virtually demanded that I did so.

I was on my own, rather than being a member of a team, and was faced with a very problematic political situation. A transitional government had been put together in 2003 by the UN following many years of coup and counter coup and massive suffering on the part of unfortunate Congolese people.

For the working politician such governments are fascinating, leading to day to day decisions on pragmatic but highly practical matters, such as how can courts work, is there a sustainable basis for collecting taxes, and when is it feasible for a central bank to print banknotes. All significant political parties have to sign up to a provisional government and, to ensure that such an agreement holds, and the parties have to have places on all important government bodies, including the Election Commission. Crucially, there is a per diem and subsistence payment made for all meetings attended. This certainly ensures good attendances and keeps the individuals and their parties sweet.

For my mission the focus was on achieving legitimate elections. I had two local staff, a room in the Election Commission’s offices and access to the Commission’s Chair and his staff. However, access did not mean influence. The Chair, a Roman Catholic dignitary, the Abbé Malumalu, was a decent man but weak. The Commission members were far more concerned with maximising their remuneration than in ensuring a good election. Commission meetings were sometimes held in urban centres miles from the capital, Kinshasa, as this produced a higher subsistence payment.

One Saturday afternoon when I was in my office a fleet of brand new Honda Accord cars arrived, one each for the Election Commission members, a gift from the President of the Republic, Joseph Kabila - a candidate, of course, at the forthcoming election. I immediately protested to the Abbé that it was impossible to accept such a gift. He squirmed uncomfortably in his chair and said that, though he himself did not want the gift, other Commission members did and he could not outvote them.

The Commission’s Administration and Finance officer, Augustine Kalala, was absolutely straight - and courageous. He ruled that the vehicles had to be registered with official Commission number plates but the Commission members opposed this insisting that the cars were personal gifts to each of them.

Kalala was under regular pressure from Commission members who would come into his office and demand that he open the safe and provide them with cash on some pretext or another. He would invariably refuse and inevitably engendered considerable resentment. Just about the only thing I achieved was to safeguard his job by the implicit threat to expose what was going on to the funders of the elections, principally the EU. It was, in fact, largely an empty threat as far too much was invested in the electoral process by the Western powers desperate to bring an end to decades of violence and insecurity in a country of eighty million people. As soon as I left Congo all Kalala’s responsibilities were taken off him. He could not be sacked but he no longer had any duties.

Coping with living in Kinshasa was difficult. Even finding a decent flat was difficult mainly as a result of the 16,000 strong United Nations peacekeeping force, MONUC, the officers of which wanted to have an apartment in the capital and could pay high rents. Landlords were able to ask $1,000 per month rent and to demand six months payment up front. This was impossible for me and The Belgian Ambassador kindly provided temporary accommodation in the Embassy until, via contacts I made via the main hotel, I managed to obtain a cheaper flat in a converted old house.

The place was bearable but there were considerable problems with the landlord who was a crook - more vividly, “bandit” in French. I was determined to leave after my six months contract and managed to find a much more pleasant chalet apartment in a secure setting. On the afternoon of my last day I drove out to the flat with a sense of relief only to find that it had been stripped of all my belongings and with five “heavies”, including a police officer, waiting for me in order to extort money. In time honoured fashion I kept talking and negotiating. Eventually I agreed to pay $500 for the return of my goods and insisted on a receipt. The receipt later proved useful when my tax affairs were investigated in detail by the HMRC and the sum extorted was allowed as “business expense”!

The only thing that made the Congo mission bearable was a friendship with a most remarkable young woman, Josephine Dilu Bidibidi. Jo was a barrister and was tall, very handsome and with an amazing presence. She headed a women’s organisation that was involved in maximising female participation in the election. I had a message that she wanted to see me; being busy I did nothing about it. She contacted me a second time and I still didn’t respond. A few days later she swept into my office having simply told all the security men on the gate that she was coming to see me.

I told her about the extortion and she was appalled. “We must go to court,” she said. I was surprised that there were courts but indeed some existed. It was the continental style of investigating magistrate and I duly appeared before the parquet. It was a curious, often informal, but effective process and damages of the $500 extorted were awarded to me. The landlord payed a couple of instalments and stopped. Back to court, whereupon he was put in jail, an extremely unpleasant experience as in most of Africa. Further payments were made and he was released, but soon stopped again. This time both he and his uncle, who acted as his agent and was a very decent man, were jailed. $200 was still owed when I finally left the country and I told Jo she could keep any money she could get him to pay.

Jo was remarkably fearless in a city that was lawless and in which even the locals were nervous of robbers and of the security forces. On one occasion we were driving in the centre of the city and she spotted a number of police officers beating a youth. “Stop”, she commended, and went over, flourishing her lawyer’s identity card. Such was her presence that the police immediately stopped and let the young man go.

On another evening, after a meal in the Belgo-Congolais Club on the outskirts of town, we were driving back towards the centre. As soon as we turned into the main road two cars immediately appeared. One dived in front of me and the other blocked me in at the rear. A group of youths appeared from the cars and demanded large sums of money. Jo immediately said quitely, “Give me your car keys - they will take them from you but not from me.” As ever, I started to talk to the youths, spinning out the discussion in order to calm the situation down.

After a while a group of local civil militia appeared on the scene and took my side, driving the youths off. I paid this militia off and returned to Jo. Nonchalantly she remarked, “They were speaking Swahili (as opposed to Lingala, the local language) but I understood enough to hear one remark to a colleague, ‘Do you want him killed? We can do it now,’”

I experienced two kidnap attempts, the first on Kinshasa’s main street very soon after I had arrived. I was walking along the roadside when a old car swung off the road in front of me. It contained four men and the driver produced a battered and, I imagined, fake police ID card and demanded that I get into the car so that they could check my papers. I refused but he insisted. I offered to walk with them round the corner to my hotel so that he could check my registration. He refused.

At this point another man got out from the back seat and produced handcuffs. The driver said, “we can force you”. I agreed that this was possible and he asked why I would not get into the car. With a forced smile, I replied that I was frightened of them, particularly as they were not in uniform. All this was going on in French and he said that everyone knows that there are “police noir”, ie the secret service.

I responded that of course I knew, as I was a former Member of Parliament. This startled him and he asked where. I told him “Angleterre” whereupon his colleague with the handcuffs jumped back into the car and they drove off. Not one of the many passers-by came to my aid and, as I continued to walk to my office, someone tried unsuccessfully to pick my pocket! What a place! The second kidnap attempt was much shorter. I got out my portable ‘phone and asked for the “police” names so that I could check with my Embassy. They drove off.

One of the problems of the Democratic Republic of Congo is that it is hugely rich in minerals. Were it poor it would not have half the internal problems it has. This was illustrated for me when I was asked by another young and respected Congolese lawyer if I was able to get items into the diplomatic bag. I replied that I could, not least as it was the only way of sending and receiving any mail, there being no postal service. He then asked if I could put a small package into the bag for him. I was immediately suspicious and asked what was in the package. A very large diamond recently discovered by clients of his and they wanted to get it out of the country without paying duty on it. I told him he was crazy to risk his profession and his reputation by doing this. There would, he said, ten per cent of its value for me, which would be $100,000! I repeated that he was mad and sent him off.

The elections eventually took place in 2006 and Joseph Kabila was re-elected. There was relative calm but no real acceptance of the democratic process by the competing political leaders and warlords. Jean-Pierra Bemba, Kabila’s chief opponent at the 2006 election, was arrested in 2008 and sent to the International Criminal Court at The Hague. After ten years of machinations and appeals he was finally convicted of two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes in March 2016. His popularity in Congo does not appear diminished.

Despite all the huge difficulties involved, most of these international missions are positive and worthwhile but much more needs to be done to build on the time, energy, expertise and cash invested in them. The ordinary citizens of these new and emerging democracies deserve the right to be involved in their own destiny and to be part of a healthy and secure democracy.