The region has had a unique connection to President Kabila because it was a rebellion led by his father and originating in the East, with support from Rwanda, which overthrew long-time dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and installed Laurent Kabila as president in 1997. Joseph Kabila was born in South Kivu province and rose to the presidency after the assassination of his father in 2001.
Joseph Kabila is credited with officially ending the war in the East in 2003 and with striking an unexpected compromise with friend-turned-foe Rwanda in 2008 that saw the formal integration of the formidable CNDP rebel group into the Congolese national army. But many of the voters the Enough Project has spoken to in the eastern cities of Goma and Bukavu say that the enduring insecurity in the East, the lack of infrastructure and social services, and the rampant corruption and impunity undercut any advantage Kabila might have enjoyed as a “native son” of the Kivus.
One church leader, a father of seven, voiced a common sentiment when he spoke to Enough:
Justice and republican army are the pillars of any strong countries. Joseph Kabila has proven to be not even the least good on those subjects. With our mineral wealth and other natural resources, Congo has all the cards to be a country that can contribute positively to the world advancement. (…) But since Kabila controls the country assets, the army, police and secret service, I'm afraid my choice would not make a big difference.