By Chris Zumani Zimba
Robert Besseling, executive director of the risk consultancy EXX Africa, said Kabila had decided not to risk announcing a Shadary victory. “Instead, he chose to split the opposition by creating a power-sharing deal … Kabila will be able to influence Tshisekedi, who now owes his ascendancy to power to Kabila’s control of the electoral commission,” Besseling said. The last two elections, in 2006 and 2011, both of which were won by Kabila, were marred by bloodshed.
- On 3rd January, 2019, when Kabila realized that opposition coalition candidate, Martin Fayulu was clearly leading after more than a third of votes had been counted and his campaign manager, Pierre Lumbi, made a premature victory statement on Twitter, being followed by ‘another opposition candidate’, Felix Tshisekedi, as confirmed by his campaign manager, Vital Kamerhe with Kabila’s ruling coalition candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary losing on third slot, the DR Congo government immediately shut down internet across the country to its over 83 million people in fear of anti-Kabila and Shadary sentiments and protests if they manipulated or resisted to stay in power. Internet Sans Frontières Executive Director, Julie Owono observed that “Past experiences in Mali, Republic of Congo, and Equatorial Guinea have proved that internet disruptions during elections are clear signs of irregularities. These events must be taken seriously into account by election monitoring missions in their final assessment of the vote”. This meant that CENI counted the remaining votes ‘behind the masses’ and ‘at night in the dark of the voters’. Hence, many key players rejected CENI’s proclamation of Kabila’s ally from the opposition, Felix Tshisekedi as the presidential winner as opposed to the anticipated Martin Fayulu from the opposition coalition.
- During the opposition political conference in Switzerland two months before the elections, Felix Tshisekedi made a sadden 360 degrees U-turn by deciding to contests alone, a movie which was widely believed that he was bought off to work with Kabila and Shadary regardless of who won between them. By cutting the internet and counting in the dark, it is perceived that the Kabila government manipulated and altered the final results to favour Felix Tshisekedi, their silent political ally in the opposition than face a reality of Martin Fayulu as the new DR Congo president.
- In his victory statement, Felix Tshisekedi made it clear that Democratic Republic of Congo’s historic presidential poll on 10th January, 2019 was hailed to the long-term leader Joseph Kabila as a “partner in democratic change”.”I pay tribute to President Joseph Kabila and today we should no longer see him as an adversary, but rather, a partner in democratic change in our country,” he told a crowd of supporters at the headquarters of his UDPS party. This statement also confirms widespread speculations that Felix was ‘physically made to win’ by Kabila in fear of Martin Fayulu who is backed by the ruling party tycoon political rivals-Moses Katumbi and Pierre Bemba and many other opposition parties.
- In his official address to his suppoerters on 10th January 2019, Martin Fayulu objected and denounced the results: “unacceptable electoral fraud” had taken place that could lead to chaos across the country. No Congolese can accept such treachery, such sham … we cannot accept at the end of this long crusade that the will of our people is not respected … All together, let us say ‘no’ to manufacturing of results and ‘no’ to an electoral holdup … Hand in hand may we pursue this struggle until the end,” Fayulu told his followers. Official figures published by the electoral commission gave Tshisekedi 38%, four points ahead of Fayulu, a respected former business executive.
- In an official statement by the Catholic Bishops group known as the National Episcopal Conference of Congo, the results announced by CENI were openly rejected either as wrong or false. The Catholics said, “From the analysis of the elements observed by this mission, we find that the results of the presidential election … do not correspond to the data collected by our observation mission from the polling and counting stations”. The Catholic Bishop conference had deployed more than 40,000 observers to all polling centers across the country.
- France through its Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian said Tshisekedi’s opposition rival Fayulu, who was declared the runner up, should have been declared the winner. “It really seems that the declared results … are not consistent with the true results. On the face of it, Mr Fayulu was the leader coming out of these elections”, Mr. Drian.
- Belgium. DR Congo’s former colonial masters equally disowned Felix Tshisekedi’s victory and promised to challenge it at global level. Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders also cast doubt on the election result, saying his country would use its temporary seat on the UN Security Council to seek clarification about Tshisekedi surprise victory. “We have some doubts that we need to check and which will be debated in the coming days in the Security Council,” Reynders, whose country was Congo’s former colonial power, told Belgian public broadcaster RTBF.
- On 18th January, 2019, the African Union has called on the Democratic Republic of Congo to suspend the announcement of final results in the contested December 30 elections, following an emergency meeting at AU headquarters on Thursday. The AU and other stakeholders in Addis Ababa said there were “serious doubts” on provisional results that gave opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi the victory, when those results released by the DR Congo’s national electoral commission (CENI) were compared with votes cast.
- The meeting was led by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, the current AU chair, with the AU Commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat on hand alongside of Southern African Development Community (SADC) representatives. The DR Congo belongs to the 16-member SADC body. Others on hand included the East African Community, West Africa’s ECOWAS and the African members of the United Nations Security Council – South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire and Equatorial Guinea. The group also decided to send a delegation consisting of Kagame, Mahamat and other heads of state to DR Congo to assist with the electoral crisis.
- The Southern African Development Community (SADC) on Thursday rowed back on call earlier this week for a recount in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s disputed presidential election. Opposition leader and election runner-up Martin Fayulu is demanding that Congo’s highest court order a recount of the December 30 vote, which was meant to lead to Congo’s first democratic transfer of power in 59 years of independence. Fayulu claims he won by a landslide and that the victory of another opposition figure, Felix Tshisekedi, was engineered by authorities.
- Zambia’s Republican President, Edgar Lungu’s political advice to the Congolese people and government was timely and correct on the possibility of forming a government of national unity (GNU) after conclusive litigation, political engagements and negotiations between the Felix and Martin camps.
- But if Tshisekedi’s victory is confirmed in the next 10 days by the constitutional court, he would be the first leader to take power via the ballot box in the DRC since Patrice Lumumba, who became prime minister shortly after the DRC won its independence from Belgium in 1960. Lumumba was toppled in a coup and killed four months later.
In conclusion, it is factual to stress that all these political dynamics put together simply invalidate Felix Tshisekedi’s narrow win over Martin Fayulu from our point of view and warrants for a negotiated government of national unity between the two top contenders despite the outcome from the DR Congo’s constitutional court concerning the presidential petition. And even if a recount was ordered by the court and Martin Fayulu is declared winner and president, his government too will be too weak and unstable own his own unless Felix Tshisekedi is made key member partner and alliance ally.
Chris Zumani Zimba is a prolific Political Scientist, Analyst, Author, Blogger, PhD Scholar, Researcher and Consultant. Besides being the CEO and Managing Consultant at Chrizzima Democracy University (CDU) in Zambia, he analyses African politics weekly on Voice of the Cape Radio, South Africa every Wednesday at 16:45hours CAT. So far, he has authored more than 10 political and academic books as well as published over 100 well researched articles.