Like many countries in the African continent, the Democratic Republic of Congo has been bedevilled by decades of civil war, political leaders akin to dictators and the loot of its mineral wealth—it has nearly half the world’s reserves of cobalt—amid widespread corruption. The latest twist in the chequered history of this central African nation is the controversy surrounding its recently held presidential polls.
The presidential elections were to see the first democratic transition in the 59 years since Congo gained independence from Belgian rule. Yet, what is has yielded so far is further political turmoil in a nation that’s still in search of stability.
The polls saw a surprise winner with Felix Tshisekedi of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS). Opinion polls had indicated a win for the joint Opposition candidate Martin Fayulu.
The influential and well respected Catholic Church’s National Episcopal Conference (CENCO) too questioned the poll outcome noting that data collected by its 4000 election observers had indicated a win for Fayulu.
After his defeat, Fayulu questioned the results and alleged the elections were rigged. He also said that a power-sharing ‘deal’ was struck between outgoing President Joseph Kabila, who has been in power since 2001, and Tshisekedi. Fayulu then approached the court challenging the poll results but saw the court confirming his rival’s win. This prompted Fayulu to remark that the court’s ruling “has just confirmed that it serves a dictatorial regime” by “validating false results” in what was a “constitutional coup d’etat.”
However, it isn’t only Fayulu who has cast doubts on the poll outcome. There are fears both domestically and among many in the international community that the ‘deal’ will only enable the outgoing President to continue to hold sway in the country.
The powerful African Union had demanded that the declaration of the final results be postponed as “serious doubts” had been raised. The demand, however, was rejected.
The South African Development Community (SADC) headed by the President of Zambia, Edgar Lungu, which had initially called for a vote recount and suggested the formation of a national unity government later back-tracked on these demands.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa have already sent congratulatory messages to Tshisekedi. Russia which has been working to make inroads into the African continent too has hailed the presidential poll results with its foreign ministry describing the elections as “a milestone in the political life of the DRC” and “the first in the history of the country of the peaceful transfer of power as a result of the popular will”.
The European Union (EU), however, has raised questions about the poll outcome with a spokesperson noting that “doubts remain regarding the conformity of the result”. France and Belgium too have raised eyebrows about the election result.
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