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NDI

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.

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New focus group research from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) finds an overwhelming majority of participants believe the country can become a full-fledged democracy, provided it has better leadership and unity among the people. Those surveyed were also especially concerned with the corrosive power of corruption in the country, and they want political parties and elected leaders to be more responsive to citizens.

Survey participants said elected leaders and political parties have failed when it comes to listening to their constituents and advocating for their needs. These leaders are perceived to follow a pattern: get elected and then hide from your constituents. “I would tell these politicians to leave their air-conditioned offices because it’s difficult to know or to be familiar with issues that the people face when you stay in an office,” said one participant from Kinshasa. This sentiment came up repeatedly as participants said their leaders do not have the interests of the people at heart and lack the political will to help the DRC improve.

The series of 12 focus groups, conducted in October by NDI, examined perceptions of the DRC’s most pressing economic, social and political issues; expectations of political parties and elected leaders; attitudes toward democracy; and expectations about the future of the country. Focus group participants had at least a high school education and included men and women 25-35 years old. This participant profile gives insight into the views of Congolese who, as adults, experienced the country’s first democratic elections in 2006 but whose overall quality of life depends on the country’s future development.

According to the April 26 report, Reach Out To Us: Findings from  Focus Groups with Young Men and Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, more than half the participants listed unemployment or security as their primary concern. They believe that many of the social ills that Congolese face are a result of poverty caused by unemployment. “Employment is the foundation of everything; if someone works, he earns a salary to provide for his family and can even afford to have an education,” said one participant from Kinshasa. Congolese would like to see their government take steps to curb unemployment and insecurity in the country.

The findings are being shared with Congolese political parties and elected leaders and can serve as a starting point for political party leaders to identify and build consensus on steps needed to tackle the country’s most pressing issues. The emphasis on responsive leadership may prompt some elected leaders and political parties to increase outreach and communication with the constituents they represent.

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Published April 26, 2012