Aleae iactae sunt? The Democratic Republic of Congo at crossroads while waiting for final results

Observers and commentators have been waiting in vain as the national independent electoral commission (CENI) in DRC announced one partial results after another. The proclamation of the complete provisional results scheduled for 6th of December has then finally be postponed “up to 48 hours” which means they will be published latest on 8th of December – today – in the evening hours.

Meanwhile several rumours, arguments and opinion have found widespread circulation and (inter-)national mediation efforts have gained momentum. First, to disperse any uncooked discourse on the legal situation, I want to refer to article 70 of the current constitution of DRC. Lambert Mende, Kabila’s minister of information has already mentioned it towards Radio Okapi, but since he is a main partisan of the incumbent and has not been quite clear on that, I will echo it again: The article says that a president’s mandate ends exactly after five years, which would have been December 6th in this case. In the same article, the constitution adds without stating exceptions that the incumbent president shall stay in office as long as his successor has been inaugurated. Thus, whatever Western or Congolese media, or political factions will tell, there is no reason for influencing the electoral process and the concomitant discourse with value-laden arguments about the president’s legal basis. This is, of course, no plea for the ruling majority, rather a quite simple analysis of legal pretexts the whole issue is enclosed in.

During the last days, like others I have been writing a lot of the widespread alleged fraud that happened to occur during the polling process. It seems obviously clear now that manipulation, ballot stuffing, voter hold-up, and several other phenomena have accompanied a still relatively peaceful election. A more detailed and informed analysis of the amount of fraud and its relative influence on the voting behaviour and the forthcoming results is still due and will have to be addressed by the different national and international actors in the weeks to come. But as for now, it is a bit too early to give exact account which is why speculations garner support both at the local and at the international level. Therefore, I do not really want to dig into that topic anymore and just reiterate what many others demand: CENI has to publish all disaggregated results, polling station per polling station. It also has to give clear and credible account about how the compilation has been carried out and how the irregularities have been taken into account while counting. I doubt that these information will be able to disperse all observations of fraud and similar, but it is the least that has to happen – not least with regards to any president’s legitimacy within the next five years.

By far more interesting (and probably also more important) for the days to come are the following issues: How can mediation efforts positively influence the reactions on the probable proclamation of Joseph Kabila? Which are the dangers and consequences of ill-informed Western media coverage while quality reports lack in a grand overall? And, the overwhelming issue: How can peace be maintained in Kinshasa and other tense areas of the country. In this moment, the International Crisis Group has issued an urgent media release on those topics which I endorse for reading although I am little worried about its extremely alarming tone. Nonetheless, they have – as often – identified the crucial items of the crisis.

Still some slight critique: ICG mentions the high numbers of people leaving from Kinshasa to Brazzaville. As I have been confirming with my own contacts in Kinshasa and other sources, there was no major flight out of the DRC capital. Numbers have been roughly the same they use to be in daily fluvial travelling. Secondly, I agree with the escalatory potential of the heavy deployment of security forces of all colours (Republican Guards, riot police, FARDC army, and others). Their presence may have a strong influence on the popular perception of the situation and, in particular, they may also lead journalists to alarmist reporting and politicians to lurid public statements. Up to now there have not been any major such incidents, the only news in that regard has been the shooting reported from Limété borough, where Tshisekedi supporters have been attacked by riot police. Otherwise most violent uprising has happened outside the DRC, most notably in Johannesburg/Gauteng, London, Paris, and Brussels/Matonge. Fierce Tshisekedi supporters have criticised governments of Zuma, Cameron, Sarkozy, and the Belgian authorities for being either idle or discretely supporting Kabila. Their claims may be valid, though I have to admit I am quite secptic towards the diaspora opposition in DRC matters. Remembering the story of Armand Tungulu who under mysterious circumstances threw a stone at Kabila in Kinshasa many months ago, I doubt whether that type of opposition has any credible or suitable alternative to offer. Further, I am worried about their discourse overshadowing that of the Congolese opposition and civil society on the ground. But this is again, a very broad field and another story.

Concerning the media, most reports predict escalation and bloodshed. I have tried to follow up their arguments, but most international journalists have not provided clear arguments for this determinism. Most cited ones include “rigged polls”, “government repression”, and “popular anger”. Well, of course such things can lead to an escalation or any type of political uprising, but neither has Tshisekedi issued his planned “mot d’ordre” nor has Kabila incited the masses by public statements (of course, what could be expected is both main contenders to issue statements for peaceful interaction, but their silence is better than nothing – at least for the moment). Further, the media display Kabila as the evil and illegitimate polls cheater while Tshisekedi is the old wise veteran opposition leader. Isn’t that a bit simplistic? Have those people forgotten that hate speech has been a particular endowment of Tshisekedi during the electoral campaign? Well, without taking sides, I just want to give evidence for that not everything is as easy some people think it is (or worse: some people want it to be).

Still, in the end there is a security-politics dimension that is supposed to be at the very core of all stakes in this electoral crisis: Tshisekedi is restrained by the following considerations: He probably does not want to break the constitution, as he is proclaiming himself a the genuine democrat. This could have been a reason for his “mot d’ordre” did not air on December 6th. And, as he is around his eighties, he will probably be very careful and not waste one of his last chance to grab power by any poorly preparated move. In addition, there is no symptom that he might be ready to sacrifice DRC’s territorial unity for the sake of power – at least not at this point of time. Looking for Kabila’s side, there are similar considerations to observe: The incumbent is not likely at this stage to prompt an escalation of violence. He is hiding behind the Ukrainian tanks of his security forces in case the opposition takes a first step, but I do not think he will deliberately push his forces against the population, for various reasons: First, being already highly unpopular, there is no need for him the engage in possible clashes and assume responsibility for atrocities committed by his forces. Second, it is quite unclear whether the security forces stand united behind Kabila. Congolese human rights organisation Voix des Sans-Voix (famous for the Chebeya case) has issued a report about mysterious abduction of relatively high-ranking army commanders a couple of days ago. Further informants have been confirming that alignments within the FARDC are not very clear at the moment and several branches might turn against the incumbent if the extreme case should happen. Another reason to believe so is Kabila’s heavy reliance on his Republican Guards – one of the best trained and most loyal forces in the country. In addition to the domestic military developments, various reports have been stating that South African, but also other military has entered DRC territory. In the case of South African Defence Forces there is no real need to worry, as they are probably “only” interested in regional stability and possibly some more mining concessions given by Kabila to Zuma’s business partners in South Africa. But if rumours about Angolan, Ugandan, and Rwandan forces are true, there might be much more at stake. In case the electoral competition between Kabila and Tshisekedi disembogues into some of the outlined worst-case scenarios, it is quite unclear which role such forces could play within violent disputes and the contest over state power. Although I still consider it very unrealistic at this point of time, all involved actors should be aware of the possibilities of a violent disintegration of the Congolese state, population, and territory. This is why the beginning efforts of international mediation should intensify and be furnished by utmost prudence and discretion.

One Response to “Aleae iactae sunt? The Democratic Republic of Congo at crossroads while waiting for final results”
  1. Paulin Bishakabalya says:

    Your comment is Wouah!!!!
    Congratulations. Hoping that the desintegration is not ongoing now. There is many informations that lot of interests are waiting to see what happen in Kinshasa to work for their own purpose.

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