The Democratic Republic of Congo held their presidential elections this past week. According to the New York Times, the incumbent president, Joseph Kabila, was declared the official winner of a very shady election. He beat his opponent, Étienne Tshisekedi, by 16 points; however, many citizens believe that it was not a fair election. Before the vote took place, Kabila began
taking suspicious actions in order to secure his spot as president by eliminating a second round of voting and appointing a majority of his party on the electoral commission.
The article refers to the sadness of the people that can be felt throughout the streets of Congo. Many people have remained quiet and are fearful of what will happen in the future, specifically with respect to political violence. According to the International
Crisis Group, there has been “growing dissatisfaction” with Kabila’s rule especially since the Congo has remained at the bottom of the Human Development Index for some time and has
approximately 70 million Congolese people who are undernourished. A few people have taken to the streets to contest the election and sadly 18 people have been killed in violence associated with election.
In The Prince, Niccoló Machiavelli addresses whether it is better to be loved or feared as a leader. He states, “It might be answered that we should wish to be both; but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.” He determines that commitments that are made peacefully are not always kept, however, when people make commitments out of fear, those commitments are kept. Still he makes clear that a prince does not want to be feared to the point of hatred.
Currently, I believe that Kabila has reached the point of constituents’ fear turning into hatred. The people did not want him to be reelected and now that he has been reelected the entire country is not happy. I understand Machiavelli’s belief that a leader should be feared because commitments will be permanent, however, at this point, the fear of the citizens is so strong that they no longer want to keep the commitment of Kabila as their president.
The first question surrounding this situation is, is Machiavelli even correct in assuming that it is more beneficial to be feared as a leader rather than loved? Will instilling fear in your constituents really encourage them to vote for you in a democratic process? I don’t know if I would personally vote for someone that I was fearful of. I’d rather vote for a politician that shared the same views as me and that I respected, or in other words loved. If you do believe that it is better to be feared rather than loved, can you give an example in which being a feared leader could be a positive situation?