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Joel Marion, David Pankratz, and Megan McKenzie were part of an election monitoring team observing the elections in Congo in July.

e-dition - Oct. 6, 2006

Joel Marion, David Pankratz, and Megan McKenzie were part of an election monitoring team observing the elections in Congo in July.

UWinnipeg Community:
Reports on Congo & Peru Elections

By Ilana Simon

For University of Winnipeg alumna Megan McKenzie, BA (Hons.) ’02, PhD, serving as an electoral observer in Congo was a rare opportunity to be the “neutral eyes” of the international community.

“Our presence was felt by all of the different actors. The Congolese thanked us for our support and said our presence gave them confidence in the democratic process,” recounted McKenzie at a panel discussion held September 29, 2006 in Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall, co-sponsored by UWinnipeg’s Global College and the Institute for Community Peacebuilding at Menno Simons College.

David Pankratz, Executive Director of Canadian Mennonite University’s Institute for Community Peacebuilding, which organized the 12-member election monitoring team to Congo, said the mission had several objectives.

“We wanted to express support to the Congolese people for their movement toward democracy and give them confidence that their election would not be stolen from them,” Pankratz said. “We also felt it was important to build a stronger relationship with the Congolese people and make Canadians aware of what’s going on there.”

The panel discussion, moderated by President Lloyd Axworthy, also featured members of the UWinnipeg community who served as Organization of American States (OAS) election observers in Peru in April and June 2006.

McKenzie, a lecturer at Menno Simons College, said international election observers are important in any emerging democracy because they are there to uncover any inconsistencies or breeches of electoral law and “would let the world know how fair or corrupt the elections were.”

UWinnipeg student Joel Marion, one of five members of the UWinnipeg community on the Congo election monitoring team, agrees that the observers contributed to the ongoing process of democratic development in Congo.

“Elections are steps in the democratic process. Developing democracies need constructive criticism and also support and guidance,” said Marion, a 5th year Honours student in Politics and Conflict Resolution Studies.

During the electoral observation mission, the Institute for Community Peacebuilding forged a relationship with an orphanage in Kinshasa and is now fundraising for a well to provide water for the children and for agriculture projects that will generate income.

“We also supported the Centre for Peacebuilding, Leadership, and Good Governance which is providing ongoing democracy education in Congo,” Pankratz added.

Dr. Axworthy, who headed the OAS mission in Peru, said these electoral observation missions were significant to the participants, the international community, the voters, and to the political systems in Peru and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

For more information on the OAS / UWinnipeg mission to Peru, visit: http://www.uwinnipeg.ca/index/newsflash-060613

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