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Congo’s Presidential Election’s Result Spark Protests, Anger

Analyst Richard Moncrieff of the International Crisis Group predicts Fayulu's supporters will not take the official result lying down.

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Congo, Election
Residents celebrate in Kinshasa, Jan. 10, 2019, after learning that opposition presidential candidate Felix Tshisekedi has been declared the winner of the elections. VOA

Election officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo have sparked surprise and outrage by naming opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi the winner of the nation’s presidential election, after counting delays and a poll marred by irregularities, rampant suspicions and chaos.

Corneille Nangaa, head of the Independent National Election Commission, or CENI, said early Thursday that Tshisekedi had won with more than 7 million votes, or 38.5 percent of the total vote.

But the man predicted to win by pre-election surveys — political newcomer and opposition coalition candidate Martin Fayulu — immediately cried foul. Fayulu has previously accused the electoral commission, which is known to be loyal to longtime President Joseph Kabila, of playing favorites.

“This attitude from the electoral commission raises various legitimate suspicions that fuel political tension throughout the country,” Fayulu said.

 

Congo, Elections
Felix Tshisekedi, leader of the DRC’s main opposition party, Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) who has been declared the winner of the presidential elections, gestures to his supporters in Kinshasa, Jan. 10, 2019. VOA

 

The influential Catholic Church, which sent more than 40,000 observers to the polls, also disputed the official result, saying, “the results of the presidential election as published by the CENI do not correspond to the data collected by our observation mission from the polling and counting stations.”

Late entry, surprise winner

Tshisekedi’s victory comes as something of a surprise. The son of the former opposition leader was a late entrant to the poll. He was part of an opposition coalition that chose Fayulu as the opposition candidate, only to reverse course weeks later and enter the race.

However, analysts say they see a logic in this announcement because of the clear failure of the ruling party candidate to endear himself to the population. Kabila, who had agreed to step down after this poll, pushed Shadary, his handpicked successor. However, Shadary was so clearly unpopular, analysts say, that the electoral commission could not have plausibly anointed him as the winner.

“The electoral victory of opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi is highly surprising, but the decision makes sense in the context of DRC’s political dynamics,” EXX Africa Business Risk Intelligence wrote in a report shortly after results were released.

 

Congo, Election
Opposition candidate Martin Fayulu wipes his face before speaking to the press at his headquarters in Kinshasa, DRC, Jan. 10, 2019. Fayulu, who came second in the presidential poll behind Felix Tshisekedi, called the results fraudulent. VOA

 

 “Outgoing President Joseph Kabila will be able to influence Tshisekedi, who now owes his ascendancy to power to Kabila’s control of the electoral commission. At least initially, Tshisekedi will be dependent on the political favor of Kabila, who seeks immunity from prosecution and protection for his family’s substantial business interests.”

Few analysts believe the poll was free, fair or transparent. On election day, electoral materials arrived late, voters couldn’t find their names on the rolls, and polling machines failed or were too complicated for voters. Provisional results were delayed, raising rumors and suspicions.

“Kabila did not want to risk announcing Shadary as the winner, which would have triggered violent protests and international condemnation,” the report continued. “Instead, he chose to split the opposition by creating a power-sharing deal with Tshisekedi.”

‘Captured for a very long time’

A spokesman for Tshisekedi confirmed that his camp had been negotiating with Kabila long ahead of the handover, further sparking suspicions that this result was manipulated by the electoral commission.

Analyst Claude Kabemba, who leads the Johannesburg-based Southern Africa Resource Watch, says the real power is, and always has been, behind the scenes.

Congo, election
DRC President Joseph Kabila smiles as he arrives to vote at a polling station in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dec. 30, 2018. VOA

“Oh, Joseph Kabila, we said, directly or indirectly, is going to stay in power,” he said. “And I think we might have a prisoner in the presidency. And for me, that is scary, unless I am wrong, but judging from what has been happening behind the scenes — and if Tshisekedi cannot rise to the occasion, we will be captured for a very long time.”

Also Read: Ebola-Recovered Woman Gives Birth To Healthy Child In Congo

Analyst Richard Moncrieff of the International Crisis Group predicts Fayulu’s supporters will not take the official result lying down.

“There will be a lot of anger. That anger will spill over into the streets, I’m quite sure. A lot of people — a lot of his supporters — will agree that he won, and will see a result for Tshisekedi as a stolen result, so that’s very dangerous.” (VOA)

Next Story

Congo: Volatile Security Situation Stymies Efforts to End Ebola

The World Health Organization says the number of Ebola cases has decreased and stabilized over the past few weeks.

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Congo, Security, Ebola
Patients waiting for prescriptions to be filled by the hospital pharmacy sit underneath a sign warning about the symptoms of Ebola, at Kibogora district hospital, near Lake Kivu and close to the border with Congo, in western Rwanda, Nov. 4, 2019. VOA

The World Health Organization says that dangers posed by armed groups in two eastern Democratic Republic of Congo provinces are impeding progress in the battle to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.  Latest reports put the number of confirmed Ebola cases at 3,287, including 2,193 deaths.

International health workers have achieved a lot since the Ebola epidemic in eastern Congo was declared in August 2018. The World Health Organization says the number of Ebola cases has decreased and stabilized over the past few weeks.

While that is encouraging, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier says “we are not out of the woods yet.”

“The risk of re-introduction of Ebola into former hotspots remains high and is…contingent on the level of access and security in these communities,” Lindmeier siad. “So, the outbreak has been and is occurring in an extremely complex environment, marked by poor infrastructure, political instability, as you heard, community mistrust of national authorities and outsiders and ongoing conflict involving scores of armed…militia groups.”

Congo, Security, Ebola
International health workers have achieved a lot since the Ebola epidemic in eastern Congo was declared in August 2018. Pixabay

Despite a recent decrease in the number of security incidents, attacks on health care workers and facilities remain unacceptably high.  From January to October, the WHO has documented more than 300 attacks, causing five deaths and 70 injuries of health care workers and patients.

And, last week, a health care worker was killed in his home and his wife critically injured.

The DRC has always been an area of high mobility. The armed conflict in the region has caused hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.   But people move around for other reasons as well. Lindmeier tells VOA among those on the move are infected people who could spread the virus.

“Because they were moving, we cannot be too optimistic about ending this soon,” Lindmeier siad. “As I said in the beginning, the weekly number of cases have stabilized over the past few weeks, but we are not, definitely not out of the woods yet and should not cry victory…before we are at the end of this.”

Also Read- Arctic Blast Spreads Shivers from Maine to Deep South

The WHO notes Ebola hotspots have shifted from urban areas to more rural, hard-to-reach communities.  It says that, plus the extremely volatile security situation, creates additional challenges in hunting down the virus. (VOA)