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The National Democratic Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)


Citizens in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) turned out in large numbers to vote in the November 2011 presidential and legislative polls, demonstrating a strong desire to actively participate in selecting their country’s leaders. Disappointingly, the 2011 elections represented a step backward from the 2006 elections that marked the end of the country’s democratic transition process. Serious irregularities during the vote tabulation process for the national polls led to questions regarding the credibility of the results and the independence of the nation’s election commission. Incumbent President Joseph Kabila won reelection with a plurality of the vote. However, the election results were immediately contested by main opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi.

Effective political parties are among the pillars of democratic political systems as they collect citizens’ interests into platforms and policy. In the lead up to November 2011 polls, contentious political battles around the electoral framework distracted parties from developing and adopting policy positions that would attract voters. Parties in the DRC often lack the means to adequately capture and represent citizens’ concerns and rarely develop policy positions on issues of concern to citizens. In the post-election period, political parties have an opportunity to develop responsive policies on issues relevant to citizens.

The DRC also faces the added challenges of extreme poverty— the country received the lowest ranking in the world in the 2011 Human Development Index—and a deteriorating security situation in the eastern region. In March 2011, a 2009 peace deal between the Kabila government and the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP)—an armed militia established in 2006—fell apart after former CNDP members within the army mutinied, and formed the M23 rebellion that continues to destabilize the region as the Congolese Revolutionary Army (ARC).

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Current Programs

NDI’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED) funded program in the DRC aims to help political parties to advance people-oriented policies and reestablish channels for dialogue with citizens. By working with political parties and using recent focus group research findings, NDI’s political party program seeks to foster peaceful dialogue and strengthen parties’ ability to develop and communicate policy positions through a combination of multiparty workshops, individualized technical assistance and public forums.

With funding from the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa, NDI is also fostering discussion among Congolese political and civic leaders on elections and their impact on the DRC’s democratization process. NDI’s program convenes participants for events that spotlight three high-profile elements of the American presidential election – presidential debates, party conventions and election day balloting – with the aim of informing ongoing discussions on electoral reform.

Past Programs

NDI reopened its office in Kinshasa in June 2011 to conduct a political party strengthening program. Funded by the NED, it aimed to help Congolese political parties compete in the 2011 elections by sharing best practices and strategies from successful campaigns. The Institute also supported opportunities for inter-party dialogue on the election process, and helped to familiarize parties with the legal channels available for resolving election disputes without resorting to violence.

In August 2011, NDI launched a focus group research project with funding from Humanity United. Focus groups held in six regions of the country provided insight into citizen expectations of the next Congolese government. The Institute presented the principal findings of the study in a report “Reach Out to Us,” offering elected officials reliable information for policymaking. In a country where communication channels from citizens to politicians are often lacking or dysfunctional, this information transmitted the perceptions of ordinary Congolese citizens to their new leaders.

During the 2004 - 2007 election cycle in the DRC, the Institute’s programming focused on preparing Congo’s young democratic institutions for the national and provincial elections, and on reinforcing the development of those institutions in the post-election period. NDI’s assistance — financed by the NED, USAID and others — targeted four categories of political actors:

  • Political parties: NDI organized the Cadre de Concertation, which assembled political parties and election officials in a neutral forum to discuss concerns in the 2006 electoral process. The Institute also trained pollwatchers to observe the 2005 referendum and 2006 election cycle, offered campaign skills training for candidates and sponsored national debates. After the election, NDI continued to provide parties with trainings on organization, recruitment, financing and communication, and helped them form caucuses in the new legislature.
  • Domestic election monitoring organizations: NDI provided support to civil society organizations(CSOs) to identify, recruit, train and deploy more than 1,000 volunteers to monitor the 2006 electoral process across the DRC.
  • The National Assembly: Prior to the 2006 elections, NDI provided extensive support to the National Assembly to refine the draft constitution, write the electoral law, and revise laws on political party financing and the status of the opposition. Following the elections, the Institute assisted the Committee on Political, Administrative, and Judicial Affairs (PAJ) as its members continued to revise key laws, and to the Economic and Finance Committee in its review of the national budget. NDI established a legislative task force of local experts to answer the Assembly’s requests for support, and trained new party caucuses in strategic planning.

    Women in the DRC learn to use iKNOW Politics, and online network for women.

  • Women: The Institute supported the development of a women’s legislative caucus to bring together members of the National Assembly promoting legislation of special concern to women and encouraging their participation in committees and party caucuses.

NDI’s efforts throughout the country were aided by its network of Democracy Resource Centers, maintained from 2004 through 2007 in the cities of Goma, Kikwit, Kinshasa, Kisangani, Lubumbashi and Mbuji-Mayi. The centers provided political parties and CSOs with access to information and logistical support to foster their effective participation in the political process, and served as a much-needed neutral space for inter-party dialogue.

During the inter-Congolese dialogue in 2001 - 2002, NDI facilitated discussion and information-sharing among Congolese political groups that did not participate in the country’s civil war, helping them to play a constructive and meaningful role in the dialogue.

Contact Information

For more information about these programs or to receive our monthly updates via email, use our contact form or contact:

Washington, D.C.
Grant Godfrey, senior program manager
(+1) 202-728-5546

Resource: Press Room
News and Views
11/23/2012 | The Washington Post
News and Views:
Blog entry
Blog entry: NDI in the News
Blog entry
Blog entry: NDI in the News
News and Views
08/26/2011 | Washington Post
News and Views:
Our Perspective
05/16/2011 | Barrie Freeman at CSIS
Our Perspective:
Blog entry
Blog entry: NDI in the News
Published Publication Title Author
06/28/2013 Press Release: Meeting of the West Africa Election Observers Network (WAEON) on the Status of Implementation of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance in West Africa
Press Release
West Africa Election Observers Network
04/26/2012 Reach Out To Us: Findings from Focus Groups with Young Men and Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Focus Group Report
Rebecca Feeley, Driss Choukri
11/01/2011 Declaration on the elimination of sexual violence in DRC
National Democratic Institute
05/16/2011 Election Preparations in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Barrie Freeman, National Democratic Institute
12/01/2008 NDI Reports: A Review of the Activities of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs
National Democratic Institute
12/01/2005 NDI 2005 Annual Report
National Democratic Institute
06/28/2001 Le Role des Partis Politiques dans une Transition Démocratique, Kinshasa, République Démocratique du Congo, du 26 - 28 juin 2001
National Democratic Institute
04/30/2001 Les lecons a tirer de la conférence nationale souveraine et ses implications pour le dialogue intercongolais
Bureau d'Etudes, de Recherche et de Consulting International (BERCI)
09/01/1997 Democratic Republic of Congo Pre-Arrival Statement
National Democratic Institute
04/10/1997 Report of the Civil-Military Relations Assessment Mission, West & Central Africa, March 18-April 10, 1997
National Democratic Institute
09/01/1996 Zaire: Joint Pre-Election Assessment Mission, September/October 1996
National Democratic Institute IFES
07/25/1995 Political Internationals and Francophone Africa, July 20-21, 1995, Bangui, CAR, July 24-26, 1995, Brazzaville, Congo, Mission Re
National Democratic Institute