Saturday, January 15, 2005

Sometimes democracy spreads itself

The people of the Democratic Republic of Congo have had it.

First they had to endure more than 30 years of brutal dictatorial rule by Mobutu Sese Seko before his 1997 ouster. Then came a civil war that killed more than 3 million people until peace finally reasserted itself in 2003. Now they've come to believe that the transition government is stalling and in-fighting and trying its best not to hold democratic elections by the June 30 deadline.

So the Congolese, tired of war and unresponsive government, have taken matters into their own hands: They've gone on strike and effectively shut down the capital, Kinshasa. The strike is also a response to the recent killings of four protesters who demanded that elections be held on time.

The Congo situation is evidence that people in countries that long suffered under dictatorial rule can pursue democracy just fine on their own. The Congolese people still face a long uphill climb, of course: More than 1,000 are dying every day from disease or malnutrition, and the country's transportation infrastructure is woefully lacking. But the Congolese themselves are the ones pushing for freedom, and their actions this week indicate they have the resolve to see the struggle through to the very end.

Never underestimate the power of the people to cast off their chains and reclaim the power that is rightfully theirs.

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