If you were among the one hundred AID campuses that screened “The Peacekeepers” last year, you’ve become acquainted with some of the desperate conditions that have ravaged the Democratic Republic of the Congo in recent decades.  The country has been ruled by an evil dictator and racked by multiple bloody civil wars that have even brought neighboring countries into the chaos.  What a relief to find out that things are hesitantly looking up for that country in a week where any good news has been overshadowed by crises in the Middle East.

Yesterday, the Congo held its first democratic election since 1960.  More than 20 million people turned out.  In the lead up to the presidential election, which has cost the international community in the hundreds of millions of dollars, observers wondered whether the election would cement a fragile peace or throw the country back into civil strife.  The Christian Science Monitor reported hope from the center of Africa, an observation that was backed up by what the Congolese themselves were writing.  You can see translations from their native French into English over at Global Voices, where citizens of the Congo urge their compatriots to fulfill their duty to vote since even in mature democracies like the United States, elections can be riddled with irregularities.  Don’t we know it!  Ultimately, though, the election’s success depends not on the votes but what comes afterwards, whether the people meet the results “with acceptance, protest or guns.”

So far, so good?  Maybe.  It’s dangerous to get too excited, since, in the words of All Africa, “No one can be sure what will follow yesterday’s elections because from past experience anything can happen in DRC and frequently does.”  And although incumbent Joseph Kabila appears to be doing well, the final results won’t be available for some time.  But despite the restless mood, it seems like optimism is the air.  Here’s hoping that the Congo’s battles will from now on be fought through ballots, not bullets.