Felix Tshisekedi is declared winner. Will he fix troubled DRC?

Saturday January 12 2019

Felix Tshisekedi

Felix Tshisekedi, the leader of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) waves to his supporters during a campaign rally in Kinshasa, on December 21, 2018. He was declared winner of the presidential race. PHOTO | AFP 

FRED OLUOCH
By FRED OLUOCH
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The Democratic Republic of Congo is likely to go for a coalition government between the winner, Felix Tshisekedi’s Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) and President Joseph Kabila’s Common Front for Congo (FCC).

Even before the electoral commission made the surprise announcement that Mr Tshisekedi had won the election in the early hours of Thursday, the 55-year-old scion of the doyen of Congolese opposition Etienne Tshisekedi had been in talks with the Kabila side, making his opponents allege that the government had rigged the result in his favour.

Congo watchers now say they would not be surprised if Emmanuel Shadary, President Kabila’s protégé who served as Interior Minister, were to be named prime minister in the new arrangement.

By Friday, there was no evidence produced to show foul play, but there had been complaints of massive irregularities. Leaked information showed that the Catholic Church, which deployed 40,000 observers in the electoral zones, believes Martin Fayulu, the joint opposition candidate, won.

In the official results, Mr Fayulu of the Lamuka (Wake Up) Coalition, whom exit polls had put ahead of the duo, got 34.8 per cent of the vote, while Mr Shadary got 23.57 per cent.

Mr Fayulu dismissed the result as a fraud and vowed to challenge them in the Constitutional Court. His supporters say authorities rigged the result on behalf of Tshisekedi, in a deal to protect members of President Kabila’s outgoing administration and maintain his influence over the security forces.

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“We know that the Constitutional Court is composed of Kabila’s people, but we do not want to give any chance to Kabila and his team to say...you didn’t follow the law. We want to do all that we can do to have the clean result,” Mr Fayulu told BBC.

Collaboration

There was tension with fears of violence from disgruntled opposition supporters but at the same time, there was a ray of hope of a transition as the opposition prepares to take over the reins in a country that has not seen a peaceful transfer of power in close to six decades.

Observers say that the collaboration between Mr Tshisekedi’s campaign and the Kabila side had existed all along.

On January 7, Jean-Marc Kabunda, spokesperson of the Tshisekedi campaign team, announced at a press conference that they were going to meet the team of Mr Shadary because, “President Kabila and Tshisekedi have an interest in meeting to prepare for the peaceful and civilised transfer of power.”

After the announcement of the results on January 10 showing that he had won with 38.57 per cent, a handle with Mr Tshisekedi’s name tweeted thanking President Kabila, “for giving me this opportunity to also taste the presidency. I swear in the name of the Philadelphia church that I will grant you all the support you will need....”

The handle is not verified and The EastAfrican could not independently ascertain its authenticity.

Stephanie Wolters, the head of the Division for Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis at the Institute for Security Studies, said that it is possible President Kabila could have made a deal with Mr Tshisekedi in return for protection.

“The proof will come when Mr Tshisekedi forms the Cabinet, who will become the Prime Minister and whether he will continue with the army generals or change them,” said Ms Wolters.

Rejection

France, a key DRC development partner also questioned the results. Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called for clarity on presidential election results because the surprise victory of Mr Tshisekedi was at odds with what was seen on the ground.

“We must have clarity on these results, which are the opposite of what we expected,” Le Drian told CNews.

The powerful Catholic Church said the provisional result of December's presidential election, naming Tshisekedi as winner, does not reflect the data its observers collected from polling stations.

"...The result does not correspond with the data collected by our observer mission from polling stations and counting centres," said Father Donatien Nshole, spokesman for Cenco which represents the country's Catholic bishops.

According to the Congo constitution, anybody with complains must file in the Constitutional Court within 14 days of the announcement of the results. The court declares the result and its decision is final.

Dr Mialano Tangania, member of the Lamuka Coalition who lives in Kenya, told The EastAfrican that they are confident the court will nullify the election results. But if that decision were to be taken, there would be a crisis, as there is no money to conduct another election. He speculates that President Kabila would have to continue ruling in a caretaker administration.

Interference

“The FCC leadership was concerned that electing Mr Fayulu would be tantamount to electing Moise Katumbi,” said Dr Tangania.

Mr Katumbi, the leader of the Together for Change and Jean Pierre Bemba of the Movement de Liberation of Congo, supported Mr Fayulu.

While Mr Katumbi was blocked from returning to the country to present his election application papers, Mr Bemba was barred by the Constitutional Court over an indictment by the International Criminal Court for witness tampering.

Dr Tangania claims that the opposition leaders agreed in Geneva that should Mr Fayulu win, he would bring in Mr Katumbi and Mr Bemba.

Tshisekedi and Vital Kamerhe left the opposition 24 hours after the signing the agreement for a united opposition candidate in Geneva on November 11, citing hostilities from their supporters.

Jean Paul Ilunga, president of the Federation of the Congo in Diaspora, told The EastAfrican that Mr Tshisekedi left the united opposition because they had decided that the one who gets the ticket would rule for two years, “yet the constitution says five years”.

“I was supporting Mr Shadary, but we are happy that for the first time power will change from the government to the opposition,” he said.

In the election conducted on December 30, the Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) could not find the $1.8 billion required for the presidential, legislative and local elections and had to make do with the $432 million provided by the government.

The DRC government rejected support from international donors on the grounds of “foreign interference.” The elections which were scheduled for 2016 failed to take place, with the government citing lack of funds.

However, the co-operation between FCC and UDPS will not come as a surprise because of the reasons Mr Fayulu was picked as the united opposition candidate, at the expense of Mr Tshisekedi. The opposition feared that Mr Tshisekedi and Mr Kamerhe could be compromised by President Kabila.

The elder Tshisekedi

Etienne Tshisekedi

Etienne Tshisekedi, who died in February 2017, was the main opponent of the late Mobutu Sese Seko in the then Zaire. PHOTO | AFP

If Mr Tshisekedi’s win is affirmed and he is sworn in on January 18, he will be following the footsteps of his father, Etienne Tshisekedi, who died in February 2017.

The elder Tshisekedi, who died in February 2017, was the main opponent of the late Mobutu Sese Seko in the then Zaire.

He later agreed to work with Mobutu and became Prime Minister in 1997, at a time the Zairean leader was under pressure from Western powers and militia groups in the east led by Laurent Desire Kabila — the outgoing president’s father — to allow multiparty democracy.

In 2011, Tshisekedi rejected the results where Joseph Kabila had been declared the winner. He later declared himself the president, resulting in a political standoff for almost one year.

Later, the late Tshisekedi agreed to work with President Kabila in an arrangement where he was set to take the top post in a transitional council, while President Kabila was to leave power in 2017 and not run for a third term.

After the 2016 elections failed, President Kabila ruled under a coalition in which seven opposition parties joined his People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy and with Bruno Tshibala as Prime Minister.

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