There was widespread surprise Thursday following the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s electoral commission announced that opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi had won the presidency.
Another opposition leader, Martin Faluyu, that had been widely expected to be successful, categorically rejected the outcome and called for the winner to become”the person who really was our people’s choice.”
President Joseph Kabila has mastered the Congo with an iron fist since 2001.
“We take note of the book of the provisional results of the presidential election which, for the first time in the current history of our nation, opens the way to change on peak of the country,” said a statement from the Catholic group called the National Episcopal Conference of Congo.
“However, from the analysis of these components detected by this mission, we discover that the results of the presidential elections… do not correspond to the information accumulated by our observation assignment from the polling and counting stations.”
The convention said that it had deployed over 40,000 observers to all polling centers across the country.
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French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also said the election results didn’t match what had been seen during the vote count.
Besides Tshisekedi and Fayulu, another contender was former Interior Minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, the preferred successor of President Joseph Kabila.
The resultscame after almost two weeks of speculation and reports of irregularities in the December 30 vote. If deemed legitimate, it will be the country’s first democratic transition of power as it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.
Either way, the point now seems set for the exit of Kabila, who has ruled the resource-rich country with an iron fist since 2001.
Since the Congo’s population of 80 million awaited the highly expected outcome of the vote, that the internet and text-messaging providers were shut down on January 1. Kabila told Reuters the shutdown was done to preserve public order after”fictitious results” were circulated social media.
Congolese told CNN that services were reinstated Thursday, but before then a number of people resorted to using satellite feeds hauled from Europe.
Mixed reactions followed Tshisekedi’s triumph Thursday.
But the mood was somber in Goma, where Fayulu fans were dispersed by anti-riot police located to many areas in town.
The nation’s bishops urged”everybody to show civic adulthood” and also to prevent any violence.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office issued a measured response Thursday to the vote, commending”all parties and stakeholders in the DRC for ensuring stability and peace throughout the election procedures.” The announcement didn’t congratulate Tshisekedi or mention that the reported irregularities.
The election was deemed a critical moment for the Congo, determining whether the beleaguered country could transition into a true democracy.
But the vote came at a tough moment. The eastern Congo is battling the nation’s worst epidemic of Ebola, and violent protests erupted after the Independent National Electoral Commission declared that Republicans at the Ebola-stricken cities of Beni and Butembo — opposition strongholds — would not cast their ballots until March for safety reasons. Yumbi also had elections postponed until March due to violence. It’s unclear now how those late votes may impact the outcome.
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Furthermore, prior to the election,” Kabila, 47, was criticized for executing electronic voting machines in a country with sparse access to power. A fire in Kinshasa weeks prior to the election destroyed 80% of the town’s electronic voting machines, doing nothing to assuage worries around voting methods.
Riot police were deployed this week in the capital in anticipation of mass violence. The US State Department on Wednesday advised all Americans to leave the country.
From the run-up into the vote, speculation had mounted that Kabila would install Shadary as a placeholder president ruled in the shadows until 2023, when he could run again.
Beneath the Congo’s Constitution, a president could serve only two terms.
“People believed that Kabila would try to deploy a scenario like (Vladimir) Putin failed (Dmitry) Medvedev and stay the man he always was,” explained Kris Berwouts, a Kinshasa-based writer of many novels about Central Africa. “But I don’t feel that Congo is Russia, and I don’t think that Kabila is Putin.”
Congo is blessed with huge levels of valuable minerals, like diamonds, gold and tantalum. From 1999 to 2002, his regime transferred possession of $5 billion in assets from the state-mining industry to private firms under its management, according to the United Nations.
Today, Kabila’s status in the nation, which generates about two-thirds of the world’s cobalt, looks unsure. But Congo’s political past is filled with unexpected outcomes.
The nation’s first Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba, was executed by firing squad in 1961, and military dictator Mobutu Sese Seko came to power in a coup.
Tshisekedi comes out of a storied political background. His dad, Étienne Tshisekedi, based the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, the oldest and largest opposition party of the Congo. Felix Tshisekedi took over the celebration following his father’s death in 2017.