DRC gets stuck in post-electoral stalemate as the Supreme Court’s verdict is expected

A couple of days after Reverend Ngoyi Mulunda, chairman of the CENI, has released the provisional final results of DRC’s presidential polls (which were despite their name lacking a number of polling stations and any explanation why others had been annulled) the electoral process has disembogued into deadlock. The results proclaiming incumbent Joseph Kabila winner with 49% while leaving the further positions to Etienne Tshisekedi with 33% and Vital Kamerhe with 7% have been rejected by the whole opposition. Eternal opposition leader Tshisekedi has published in the name of his party UDPS his own results, remarkably differing from the CENI’s: Tshisekedi over 50% while Kabila reduced to around 25% and close to Kamerhe. Further, the UDPS has even issued its shadow cabinet while Tshisekedi has proclaimed himself President-elect of the DRC (and thereby just reiterating what he has been doing before and meanwhile campaigning, as Kabila smugly threw to Al Jazeera). This cabinet includes Kamerhe as Prime Minister among several other interesting persons, such as Eddy Kapend, former right hand to Laurent-Désiré Kabila and chief of staff under Joseph Kabila for a short time, or Mbusa Nyamwisi and Kengo wa Dondo, two further Presidential candidates, and a bunch of fierce Tshisekedi allies of the UDPS, such as Albert Moleka and Valentin Mubake. Both the named and many analysts may be similarly curious whether this cabinet will ever lead to country.

In the meantime, several observer missions have issued their assessments of the election, although most of these mission did not have the capacity to observe the whole country. Still, the statements of the Carter Center and the EU MOE shed a very worried light on the whole process, and put its credibility in doubt. As to the particular high turnout in several “circonscriptions electorales” (wider districts) in Katanga, where around 100% turnout has led to 100% pro-Kabila votes while in other provinces, close to opposition candidates the turnout was much lower, the observer reports are highly uncertain whether this is the outcome of even more massive fraud than already known before the presentation of results. Another factor that adds to the yet existing critique about voter intimidation, burned/destroyed polling stations, illegal politicians’ and security forces’ interference, fraudulent handling of the rules related to the so-called “procés verbaux” (documents that should be signed by observers from all political sides) and stuffed ballots is the extremely high number of “votes par dérogation” (votes issued in a polling station other than the one a person should use) that opens up the suspicion of fictive voters in high numbers. Some of the critique has been responded to by the government side, who despite of some more or less fine-tuned arguments basically refer to the claim that – with or without fraud – Kabila votes would have outnumbered the opposition’s by far. On this, the best comment has probably been delivered by Jason Stearns: “It is indeed possible that Kabila would have won a clean election, but that kind of logic is falling on millions of deaf ears for the moment.”

In addition to the international observer’s growing scepticism and the oppositions discontent, Kinshasa’s archbishop (and recently named cardinal) Laurent Monsengwo, a politico-religious heavyweight who already played a major role in the “democratisation processes under the late Mobutu, has turned against Kabila and the CENI, accusing Mulunda of massive fraud. Monsengwo’s word have widely been noticed both within and outside DRC and the church’s crucial role in political mediation and civilians’ thought should not be underestimated in a country where religious organisations are among the few that have kept a rather high rate of legitimacy. Although there is no real hint that this may influence the Supreme Court in its decision of whether to accept or reject the CENI results in the days to come (the official deadline is Saturday, but it might be reported like the CENI proclamation as well), it is indirectly reinforcing the appeal Vital Kamerhe presented to the highest juridical organ in the DRC.

The complaint addressed to the Court Supreme by UNC leader and Presidential candidate Kamerhe is another interesting development to follow, as pointed out in this article. In general, that move is, together with Tshisekedi’s shadow cabinet, another sign that the opposition is now up to form an ex-post coalition after the elections. To me it seems a bit weird they are collaborating that well after the ballot compared to the campaign, but it is – for a couple of reasons – simply logic. Tshisekedi himself had been declaring he will under no circumstance address the Supreme Court for what he describes it being an institution similarly subject the the Kabila side and therefore not democratic in any sense of the word. He therefore did not want to provide it with any credibility in addressing it. Hence, Kamerhe was taking over that job. Then, as a macro-explanation, most of the opposition candidates, most notably the self-declared President and his shadow Prime Minister are latching on to their last resort in terms of political power in DRC. As to the observed irregularities that turned out to be more obvious and more visible than expected and also due to the popular discontent with the official results (at least as shown in many parts of Kinshasa and even more in the Kasai provinces) the main opposition figures have detected a slight chance in changing the heralding victory of the incumbent.

While the political developments are accelerating and the climate of the debates is heating, the situation in Kinshasa and other parts of the country has remained remarkably calm. This bears quite some hope that Kinois, but also other Congolese throughout the country are finally fed up with unrest and turmoil that has shattered their society time and again for the last 20 years. Even those parts clearly defined as Tshisekedi strongholds have not experienced a broad outbreak of chaos. The Kasai provinces are under heavy control of armed forces but did not show major signs of violence. This is certainly due to the military deployment of Kabila, but also due to the civilian population itself. Kinshasa on the other side had been a bit more tense, as comparative media analysis reveals, but apart from Tshisekedi’s personal curfew, lots of burning tyres, and a couple of more serious incidents the capital was relatively calm as many of my colleagues and friends there have reported. The question is therefore, whether this might change after the Supreme Court’s verdict.

So, basically the current stalemate delivers various options for the days to come. The much-cited coming civil war has luckily not emerged by now, neither is there any rampant sign of it being underway, but violence is still a potential danger in the very volatile situation. But as I have been arguing in several articles before, both local and international media do also have a responsibility not to enhance violence through their style of reporting. As to the further scenarios, I don’t esteem many of them to be very realistic. As the civil war scenario, also the abolute-peace scenario is a bit unlikely. There will be some clashes between the political blocks, even if things remain calm at a larger scale. I do not think either, that there will be a major showdown soon to come (although I have to admit, in this I might be put right, but we will see…) rather I imagine Kabila upholding the Supreme Court verdict as long as possible to gain time, distract international observers, and take breath from the opposition movement. Kabila has again, in his first press conference after the elections, proven that he is blessed with some particular political talents, especially in terms of sitting out apparent problems. I wonder whether he will give evidence in that regard or not. Then again, on the opposition side much will depend from the political cleverness of Tshisekedi and Kamerhe, and the real will to jointly continue the struggle begun.

One Response to “DRC gets stuck in post-electoral stalemate as the Supreme Court’s verdict is expected”
  1. ethuin says:

    Well, have to admit now, that the Supreme Court’s early verdict has falsified my forecast.

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