Wednesday June 19, 2019
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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

Ebola Outbreak in Uganda Raise Fears of Spread First Time Beyond Congo

The current Ebola epidemic began in August last year in eastern Congo and has already infected at least 2,062 people, killing 1,390 of them

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ebola
Ugandan medical staff inspect the Ebola preparedness facilities at the Bwera general hospital near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo in Bwera, Uganda, June 12, 2019. VOA

Uganda announced two more cases of Ebola on Wednesday — a grandmother and a three-year-old boy — confirming that a deadly outbreak has spread for the first time beyond the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Ugandan cases show the epidemic is entering a “truly frightening” phase and could kill many more people, one infectious disease specialist told Reuters.

A five-year-old boy who had crossed into Uganda from Congo died late Tuesday, said Uganda’s health minister, Jane Ruth Aceng, and his family were now being monitored in isolation. The two new victims were the boy’s brother and grandmother, the Ugandan Health Ministry said. His grandfather had recently died of Ebola.

Uganda plans to repatriate the two patients with Ebola to Congo, saying they can get better treatment in specialized facilities there. Three more family members, who are so far healthy, will also be repatriated, a health ministry spokesman said. The family must consent to all repatriations, he said.

“This epidemic is in a truly frightening phase and shows no sign of stopping,” said Jeremy Farrar, an infectious disease specialist and director of the Wellcome Trust global health charity, which is involved in fighting Ebola.

ebola
People crossing the border have their temperature taken to check for symptoms of Ebola, at the border crossing near Kasindi, eastern Congo, June 12, 2019, just across from the Ugandan town of Bwera. VOA

“We can expect and should plan for more cases in DRC and neighboring countries,” he said, adding: “There are now more deaths than any other Ebola outbreak in history, bar the West Africa epidemic of 2013-16, and there can be no doubt that the situation could escalate towards those terrible levels.”

The current Ebola epidemic began in August last year in eastern Congo and has already infected at least 2,062 people, killing 1,390 of them. The West Africa epidemic infected 28,000 people and killed 11,300, mostly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. The viral disease spreads through contact with bodily fluids, causing hemorrhagic fever with severe vomiting, diarrhea and bleeding.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will reconvene an emergency committee Friday to decide whether the outbreak is an international public health emergency and how to manage it, a WHO statement said.

Violent backlash

Authorities have struggled to contain the disease partly because health workers have been repeatedly attacked in conflict-ravaged eastern Congo, the epicenter of the outbreak.

This year, the WHO has documented 174 attacks on health care workers and facilities in Congo, causing 5 deaths and 51 injuries of health care workers and patients, Geneva-based spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told Reuters on Wednesday.

ebola
Health workers dressed in Ebola protective suits are seen readying an Ebola preparedness facility at the Bwera general hospital near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo in Bwera, Uganda, June 12, 2019. VOA

There is widespread public mistrust of the Congo government and health workers from outside the region, giving rise to rumors that the disease is a ruse to try to rig elections in the area, where dozens of armed groups operate. Other rumors accuse health teams of spreading the disease. Many victims have sought treatment with traditional healers instead.

High alert

Uganda, which has been on high alert for a possible spread of Ebola and has already vaccinated many frontline health workers, is relatively well prepared to contain the virus. WHO is bringing in 3,500 additional vaccines and will begin vaccinating more people Friday.

ALSO READ: Measles Epidemic on Rise in Congo After Ebola Outbreak

“The current cases in Uganda will be quickly contained but the failure to stop the current Ebola epidemic in DRC is simply tragic,” said Ian Jones, a professor of virology at Britain’s Reading University. Eastern Congo also borders South Sudan, which is struggling to emerge from five years of devastating civil war and whose health facilities are basic even in the capital.

“We are deeply concerned for countries such as South Sudan that do not have the infrastructure to handle an outbreak,” said Whitney Elmer, Congo country director at aid group Mercy Corps. (VOA)