Democratic Republic of Congo: Anglican leader pleads for support in wake of continued election result uncertainty

Jan 6, 2019 by

[Editor’s note: This report has been compiled by Anthonio Kibwela using material from and Radio France International.]

Democratic Republic of Congo’s Election Commission has postponed the
publication of provisional results scheduled for 6th January from the long-awaited presidential vote [which took place on 30th December], the panel’s chairman told AFP on Thursday.

“We are working around the clock. We are doing our best to publish the
results on 6 January. But if we can’t, we can’t,” said Corneille Nangaa, head of the Independent National Election Commission (CENI).

DR Congo, which is sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest country and one of its most unstable, has been buffeted by political turbulence for the past two years.

President Joseph Kabila, 47, should have stepped down at the end of 2016 when his constitutionally-limited two terms in office expired. But he invoked a caretaker clause in the constitution to stay on, sparking protests which were ruthlessly crushed, and leaving scores dead.

After repeated delays, the long-awaited presidential election to choose his successor was held on Sunday 30th December.

Tensions have however risen over the marathon counting process with opposition fears running high that the result will be rigged to favour Kabila’s preferred successor Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.

CENI had pledged to issue provisional results by 6 January but yesterday, the electoral commission said that the provisional results will come out on 14th January 2019. So, a new Calendar will be communicated in order to know when the new president is to be sworn.

Compiling the votes by hand was the biggest hurdle, The President of the electoral commission said.

Each electoral area is responsible for counting its own votes, then sending a report on the tally along with the actual ballots cast to a “result centralisation” centre which compiles all the data.

But the road network is notoriously poor in DR Congo, a vast country which is the size of continental Western Europe.

CENI had installed electronic voting machines to speed up the ballot, with voters selecting their candidate via a touchscreen which would then print out the relevant ballot form. That form would then be placed into the ballot box.

The Electoral Commission had wanted “to be able to transmit the results from the voting machines to help us publish the results quickly but nobody wanted that procedure,” The President of the Electoral commission said.

The opposition had fiercely criticised the machines, describing them as vulnerable to hacking and manipulation.
“As the machines are not connected to anything,” the business of collecting and collating the reports “is being done manually”, Nangaa said. “We had proposed a solution” to overcome DRC’s  infrastructure problems, he said, “but it was rejected, and now we have to live with the situation.”

Within hours of clearing the first hurdle of potential violence on polling day, the elections ran into their next challenge – claims of victory and entrenched suspicions about electoral fraud.
Kabila’s champion Shadary, a hardliner and former interior minister, claimed victory as did Etienne Tshisekedi, head of the UDPS, the country’s oldest and largest opposition party.
But the few opinion polls conducted before the vote signalled Martin Fayulu – a little-known legislator and former oil executive – as the
clear favourite.

As tensions escalated, the authorities cut off internet access and blocked broadcasts by Radio France Internationale, the French public-service broadcaster which has a huge following in DRC, withdrawing its correspondent’s accreditation. It has accused RFI of fanning controversy by “declaring results (and) trends” – an allegation the broadcaster denies.

The move to cut internet access and block RFI broadcasts drew a sharp rebuke from Paris on Thursday. Respect for the freedom of the press and the freedom of expression was “a key element in guaranteeing the transparency and credibility of the ongoing electoral process” in DR Congo, a foreign ministry spokesman said.

But Kinshasa appeared unbowed by the rebuke, issuing another warning to the foreign press on Thursday.

“Only CENI is empowered to announce and publish the voting results,” warned Communications Minister Lambert Mende, who is also  Chadary’s spokesman.

DR Congo has never known a peaceful handover of power since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960 and many fear there will be renewed bloodshed if the results lack credibility.

The country lived through two fully-fledged wars between 1996 and 2003 that claimed millions of lives through bloodshed, fighting, starvation and disease.
Violence also marred elections in 2006 and 2011.

So, let us wait until the 15th January for the provisional results.

Request: We would appreciate any kind of  support in order to organize
workshops on Conflict resolution – Peace building & Reconciliation. This is really needed now.
Your prayers are needed above all.
Anthonio Kibwela.
Provincial Secretary, Anglican Church of Congo; Leader of the Commission of Justice, Peace & Reconciliation.


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