Congo Elections: Felix Tshisekedi Emerges Victorious
January 10, 2019 (Ezeha.com) - Felix Tshisekedi, the presidential candidate of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s chief opposition party was declared the winner in the hotly contested election, held on the 30th of December 2018.
The result which was announced early Thursday morning means for the first time since attaining independence from Belgium in 1960, DRC will have the first ever electoral transfer of power.
The outcome came as a shocker to many, especially the observers, who thought the electoral body would ensure the ruling party’s candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, would emerge victorious in the polls.
This marked the third election since the end of the protracted civil war in 2002.
Mr. Emmanuel was handpicked by the incumbent, Joseph Kabila who has ruled for 18 years. Ramazani drew the least amount of votes in the contest.
In addition to the surprise development, pre-election polls indicated the outspoken opposition frontrunner Mr. Martin Fayulu had a healthy lead, but in the results announced he emerged second.
It was alleged that the government and Felix Tshisekedi were engaged in an attempt to come up with a power-sharing deal. And moments to the announcement, Fayulu said in a message the power-sharing deal between the two parties was an open secret.
“My response is simple: The Congolese people deserve the truth of the ballot, not another backroom engagement,” said Fayulu. He further added that losing candidates can argue their case in the constitutional court.
A senior advisor to President Kabila accepted the outcome of the polls saying they weren’t happy but was willing to accept the decision of the Congolese.
“Of course we aren’t happy because our candidate lost, but the Congolese have made their choice and democracy has triumphed,” said Barnabe Kikaya Bin Karubi.
Tshisekedi, who garnered more than 7 million votes wasn’t the leading candidate. He is the son to the late opposition leader Etienne, but critics argue he’s untested and unknown.
Addressing thousands of supporters in Kinshasa, Tshisekedi paid tribute to outgoing president Joseph Kabila, whom he labeled an important partner in the country’s democratic transition. He also said he’ll be the president of all Congolese.
The polls had placed Fayulu at 47%, 20 points ahead of the eventual winner. Votes tallied by the DRC’s Catholic Church indicated Fayulu had won, as reported by Reuters, raising the possibility of post-election violence. The church repeatedly called for results that reflect the reality on the ground.
Fayulu dismissed the results claiming it was an “electoral coup,” claiming the people’s victory won’t be stolen once more.
“These results have nothing to do with the truth at the ballot box. How long are we going to negotiate results? He asked. In 2006, Jean-Pierre Bemba’s victory was stolen, in 2011 Etienne Tshisekedi’s victory was stolen. Victory won’t be stolen from Martin Fayulu,” he said.
A separate domestic observer group called SYMOCEL in a statement said it observed 52 major electoral anomalies; comprising a physical alteration of results in the 101 centers it monitored. The whole country had 179 compilation centers.
The election offered voters a rare chance of leadership change via the ballot box but being hotly contested raised the possibility of political violence, which is synonymous with the country’s previous elections.
A day after the election, text-messaging and internet services were shut down across the country to limit the spread of fake results.
The election was also complicated by the ongoing Ebola vice in North Kivu’s eastern province, which is presently the second-largest outbreak the country has ever experienced.
The electoral commission postponed voting in Butembo and Beni, thereby barring more than a million registered voters from participating in the process-an area that is arguably Fayulu’s stronghold.
International community reads mischief:
Belgium and France have challenged the outcome of the presidential election as reported by Aljazeera. France’s foreign minister said the victory of Felix Tshisekedi wasn’t consistent with that of Martin Fayulu, who appeared victorious.
In a statement made hours after the announcement of the provisional results, Jean-Yves Le Drian said Fayulu should have been announced the winner.
“It seems the results announced aren’t consistent with the true results. On the face of it, Mr. Fayulu was the leader coming out of these elections,” he told CNews.
He cited the National Episcopal Conference of the Congo (CENCO) that inspected and declared a totally different outcome.
Belgium, through their Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, cast doubt on the true outcome of the elections. Mr. Reynders said they’ll use their temporary position at the United Nations Security Council to seek clarification regarding the outcome of the hotly contested presidential race.
“We have some doubts that we need to check and which will be debated in the coming days in the UN’s Security Council,” he told Belgian RTBF.
Prior to the elections, the opposition had already been weakened by internal wrangles and the exclusion of two political heavyweights; Moise Katumbi, a popular mogul and Jean Pierre Bemba, a former guerrilla leader.
Tshisekedi’s father was a famous opposition leader during the reign of Mobutu Sese Seko. He died last year and his son, the president-elect took over at the helm of the party, with a chance of ascending to power.
Though his father was considered a man of the people, critics have expressed reservations regarding the limited nature of Tshisekedi, who according to them lacks charisma like his father.
The DRC suffers from protracted conflict, prevalent disease, rife corruption and some of the worst levels of malnutrition and gender-based violence.
It is possible Mr. Fayulu will take this matter to the constitutional court, but his supporters will probably end up in the streets to demonstrate. The power of the mass action is what should worry people.
In the past few days, different regional and international “power brokers” like the U.S, Zambia and South Africa, different civil rights activists and Pope Francis urged the electoral body to publish results reflecting the true outcome on the ground or suffer the consequences.
The U.S. deployed 80 soldiers on standby in Gabon in anticipation of an outbreak of post-election violence. They are ready to evacuate American citizens should violence erupt any time. But by Wednesday afternoon, the State Department issued advisory notice telling Americans to leave Congo and not rely on the government.
Martin Fayulu has since called on the Catholic Church to publish the results it tallied from its team of 40,000 observers.