Uncertainty in Congo as African Union leaders visit

Saturday January 19 2019

African Union summit Paul Kagame

African Union chairperson and Rwanda's President Paul Kagame gestures at the beginning of a High-Level Consultation Meeting with African leaders on DR Congo election at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, on January 17, 2019. PHOTO | AFP 

By FRED OLUOCH
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Uncertainty continued to shroud the release of the final results of the presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday, as competing political forces in and outside Africa clashed on the way forward for the mineral-rich country.

While DRC’s Constitutional Court was expected to issue a decision on January 18 on the petition filed by opposition Martin Fayulu of the Lamuka Coalition, who claims he won the election, an African Union High-Level Consultative Meeting of Heads of State and Government on the Situation in DRC held in Addis Ababa on Thursday called for the suspension of the proclamation of the final results of the elections.

By the time of going to press, the final results had not been released, but Gamal Ahmed Karrar, communications officer at the Directorate of Information and Communication in the African Union Commission, told The EastAfrican that the leaders had concluded that there were serious doubts about the provisional results announced by the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) on January 10.

A high-level delegation comprising AU chairperson, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and the chairperson of the AU Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat, will travel to Kinshasa to interact with all Congolese stakeholders, with a view to reaching consensus on a way out of the post-electoral crisis in the country.

This was decided at the meeting of 16 heads of state, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

CENI, on January 10, released provisional results that showed that opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi of the CACH Coalition had won the presidential election with 38.57 per cent of the vote, followed by Mr Fayulu with 34.8 per cent while President Joseph Kabila’s candidate Emmanuel Shadary got 23.57 per cent. Mr Fayulu filed a petition on January 12, asking for a recount.

SADC and ICGLR had earlier called for a coalition government.

A Twitter handle associated with Mr Fayulu tweeted that the peace and stability of the DRC and the region depended on the truth being revealed through a recount.

Backtracked

Government spokesperson Lambert Mende has accused the international media of leaking information to influence the courts.

There have been reports of results that conflict with what the electoral body announced.

SADC, after a meeting preceding the Addis summit, urged the international community to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“We call upon the international community to respect the ongoing internal legal and political processes for the finalisation of the electoral process," SADC said in a statement, without mentioning the previous appeal for a broad-based government.

Sources say that South Africa and Zambia backtracked on the initial position that SADC had taken on January 13, on the grounds that a recount could heighten political tensions in DRC.

President Kagame also said that the Thursday summit was aimed at “preventing people from outside our continent from interfering in the search for solutions for us."

This was seen as a direct response to the United States, which midweek issued a statement saying that it stands alongside the people of DRC and called for the Constitutional Court to be transparent.

“The United States supports the legitimate right of candidates to bring a judicial remedy against election results and urges the Constitutional Court to implement a fair and transparent process of resolving electoral disputes,” said the statement, which added that the US will hold those who perpetrated electoral violence or undermined democratic the process to account.

Stephanie Wolters, the head of the Division for Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis at the Institute for Security Studies in Johannesburg, said that it is unlikely that Constitutional Court will agree with the AU request and it would only delay the decision for some days until Tuesday, 10 days after the petition was filed.

“It depends on how upset the DRC authorities are. They were happy with the SADC statement that called for respect for sovereignty, but the request by AU is a different story,” said Ms Wolters.

The summit also came up with a communique to shield DRC from external pressure.

“The Summit recognised and underscored the role of the Constitutional Court of the DRC and called upon the international community to respect the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the internal legal and political processes for the finalisation of the electoral process,” said the communique.

Government’s reaction

However, DR Congo dismissed the AU’s decision, insisting that the Constitutional Court assessing the vote’s legality was impartial.

“The court is independent, both of us and of the African Union,” government spokesman Lambert Mende said.

“I don’t think it is the business of the government or even of the African Union to tell the court what it should do.”

Mr Mende, who is also Minister for Communication and the Media, added bluntly: “I don’t know if there are countries where people can interfere like that in a legal procedure.”

“The court will do what is right for showing the truth. We should all trust it,” he said.

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