Congo After Disputed Elections

The unexpected outcome of the December 30, 2018 general election in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) shocked even the most experienced observers of the country. The provisional results announced by the Congolese National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) on January 9 this year opposition leader, Felix Tshisekedi, decisively won the Presidential Election with 36.6 percent of the votes. The runner-up was Martin Fayulu, the leader of the Lamuka coalition, who scored 34.8 percent and Emmanuel Shadary the Presidential candidate of Joseph Kabila’s ruling Common Front for Congo (FCC) coalition, came third with 23.8 percent. The FCC coalition, however, won the senatorial and legislative elections in a landslide. That means, according to the CENI, the Congolese people thoroughly rejected Shadary’s Presidential bid but, gave the coalition supporting him a majority in both the senate and the parliament.

This shocking result led most observers of the election to come to the conclusion that Tshisekedi’s unexpected win was the result of under-hand deal between Tshisekedi and the FCC coalition aiming to help Kabila maintain control over important ministries and the security services with the help of a “friendly” President in the years ahead. As stipulated in the country’s constitution, upon leaving the presidency, Kabila will become a senator while his coalition will most certainly maintain its control over the military, foreign affairs, homeland security, the national budget and the mining sector. That means the focus of Congolese political power will be shifting from the Presidency to the senate. In this context, political observers expect the FCC coalition to do anything in its power to prevent hostile political figures from taking over the presidency. This is because it is generally believed that the successful promotion of opposition candidates for the presidential office could further worsen the security and humanitarian situation in the Congo on a regional scale. This could equally have the domino effect of triggering a revolution reminiscent of the Arab spring in the region. It is clear that the results of the 2018 Congolese general elections are murky at best.

Tshisekedi may have had enough popular support to squarely win the presidential contest, but it is hard to comprehend how Kabila’s coalition lost the presidency that won the legislative elections in a landslide. Reports on irregularities surrounding the election process make it hard for many to find the results announced in the CENI reliable. As a result many national and international observers disputed the results of the election. Martin Fayulu, who came second according to the CENI but claims to be the real winner of the presidential election, appealed to the country’s constitutional court to cancel the provisional result. He too subscribed to the notion that Tshisekedi was declared the winner of the election only because he made a secret deal with the FCC coalition. Also the Congo’s Catholic Church which deployed more than 40,000 observers to monitor the elections, said “the results of the presidential elections commission do not match those collected by our observer mission” suggesting that Tshisekedi win is not legitimate.

The South African Development Community (SADC) equally issued a statement saying the CENI should recount the votes as a recount would provide the necessary reassurance to both winners and losers, the 16 member regional bloc said. The U.S., France and Belgium also challenged the outcome of the presidential election, with France’s foreign minister saying the declared victory of Tshisekedi was “not consistent” with the results and that his rival Fayulu appeared to have won. The African Union (AU) said there were serious doubts over the results of the presidential election and called on the Congo’s Constitutional Court to halt plans to rule on the outcome. This unprecedented action from the AU followed a financial times analysis’ of leaked polling data which showcase that Fayulu was the clear winner of the presidential contest while Tshisekedi should have finished a distant second. Now despite the disputing results of the election, the constitutional court (Widely understood as being populated with judges loyal to Kabila),confirmed the win of Tshisekedi, rejecting claims of fraud, and runner up Fayulu promptly declared himself the country’s “only legitimate president”. The court, however said Fayulu offered no proof to back his assertions that he had won easily based on leaked data attributed to the electoral commission. Fayulu, legislator and business man, urged Congolese to take to the streets to peacefully protest what he called a “constitutional coup d’ etat”, accusing the court of validating false results, “it is no secret that you have elected me president, he said, I call on the Congolese people not to recognize someone who would take on that role illegitimately nor to obey the orders coming from him. Neither Congolese or the international community should recognize Tshisekedi, nor obey him”, Fayulu added. He is outspoken about cleaning up Congo’s sprawling corruption and is widely seen as posing more of a threat to Kabila, his allies and the vast wealth they have amassed with the backing of the west. A section of the Congolese opposition believe that the west will never treat any African state as an equal subject of International legal relations. And that they are being vindicated by the fact that the west is foisting its candidate on Congo without taking into account local traditions and the specific nature of African politics. This, they say represents a domineering colonial mindset of a so called civilized world towards the Dark Continent. Tshisekedi’s party sharply rejected the AU attempted intervention saying that the continental body’s stance is “the work of some mining lobbies seeking to destabilize the Democratic Republic of Congo in order to perpetuate the looting of this country”.

The country of 80 million people is rich in gold, oil, diamond, copper, uranium, coltan and colbat, minerals key to manufacture of smart phones around the world and for hand-held batteries in electronic devices has moved closer to further unrest with the Court affirmation of Tshekedi’s election. At least 34 people have been killed since provisional result were released on January 10, the United Nations said. And the Rwanda rebels in the Congo since the swearing in of Tshisekedi have begun planning operations against the Rwanda government. Surely, ethnic violence will escalate in the north eastern region of Congo where opposition forces are pitched against each other fueled by high unemployment, corruption and poor public services in the country. The escalation of crisis in the days ahead will of course pave the way for the unregulated extraction and export of mineral resources of the country by the west for a pittance. Observers of Congo politics believe that the foisting of the plans of the west on the country could degenerate into upsurge of violence, ethnic cleansing, new refugees and IDP flows as well as other fallouts which necessarily accompany democratization process imposed by the west. Because kabila will be in the senate and his coalition will most likely hold onto the government departments, observers point out that if things stay as they are, Tshisekedi will be the first President in the Congolese political history since the time of Patrice Lumumba to face a serious countervailing power. The current power arrangement are undoubtedly murky and messy in this vast and chronically unstable country that has lived through two regional wars in 1996-1997 and 1998-2013 and previous two elections were marred by bloody clashes. Congo however, now march into a new era in a graveyard peace. – Usman wrote from Kaduna.

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