Early results – which the regime is banning the media from reporting – indicate a win for the opposition after government plans to fix the poll went awry
A showdown is looming after the country’s Catholic bishops announced they knew who had won the presidential election on 30 December, as anger builds after delays in the release of official results and the shutdown of national communications.
Congo-Kinshasa’s election body – the Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante (CENI) – has said nothing so far. CENI president Corneille Nangaa says the publication of preliminary results scheduled for 6 January will be postponed, as tally sheets trickle in to the regional centres for official tabulation.
The Bishops’ Conférence Episcopale Nationale du Congo (CENCO) had organised up to 40,000 election monitors to scrutinise the conduct of the poll and conduct a parallel vote tabulation. CENCO did not name the winning candidate publicly, but declared that he had polled over half of the votes in the presidential election. Martin Fayulu is the unnamed winning opposition candidate, Africa Confidential’s church sources say.
Rival opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi and the ruling coalition candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary are trailing with around 20% each, we hear. All these figures, and the detailed calculations underlying them, were provided by CENCO to diplomats in Kinshasa on 2 January.
On 4 January, Information Minister Lambert Mende summoned the international media to forbid them from reporting results ahead of CENI’s announcement. CENCO’s announcement was a bombshell for President Joseph Kabila, who in August succumbed to pressure to hold long-delayed elections and chose former interior minister Shadary to be the ruling party’s presidential candidate.
Widespread intimidation, suspension of polling in certain areas, and use of government facilities by the ruling party were reported as Kabila’s allies attempted to fix the result in Shadary’s favour. But the fix was not thorough enough, sources in Shadary’s Front commun pour le Congo (FCC) told Africa Confidential. They said control of the poll was lost because they did not pay off enough election officials.
Only CENI, seen as close to the presidency, may announce the result of the presidential and parliamentary elections. By pre-empting it, CENCO makes it harder for CENI to report a result widely at variance with its own. CENCO and the Catholic church, whose congregation comprises about half the population, has been a thorn in Kabila’s side for years. Church observers were present at the country’s 70,000 polling stations on polling day, and when the final results were tallied and printed out by electronic voting machines.
On 31 December, the government shut down internet services across the country, ostensibly to prevent the circulation of ‘fake’ results. Fayulu stated this was done to stop the opposition broadcasting its ‘overwhelming victory’.
CENCO played a prominent part in opposition politics; the church joined the peace marches of 1992 which began the process of toppling the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, and in the protests last year against the postponement of elections which were put down with much loss of life.
The national army, the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo, and the Police Nationale Congolaise (PNC) deployed up to 15,000 newly-recruited troops around the country to provincial hotspots such as Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu, the Kasaïs, and Kinshasa to quell any unrest that might meet an unpopular announcement by CENI (AC Vol 59 No 17, Kabila’s two-front offensive).
The Synergie des Mission d’Observation Citoyenne des Élections (SYMOCEL), a civilian observer coalition with more than 18,000 monitors throughout the country, reported that although the elections were broadly peaceful, there had been illegal replacements and widespread breakdowns of electronic voting machines.
SYMOCEL reported that 24% of the polling stations it observed closed before those already in line were able to vote, and voting centres were relocated by CENI at the last minute, confusing voters who could not locate themselves on voting lists. Some 27% of the polling stations opened late, 18% suffered from malfunctioning voting machines, and 15% did not publicly display vote tallies after counting as required by law, SYMOCEL added.
Meanwhile, according to United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission (Monusco) sources, Shadary relied extensively on armed groups to deliver him the vote in North Kivu – the second biggest province for registered voters after Kinshasa and one of the most troubled by militia activity and mining for ‘conflict minerals’. One of Shadary’s helpers was Nduma Défense du Congo – Renové(NDC-R), led by Guidon Shirimay Mwissa, who was put under UN Security Council sanctions in February 2018, according to the sources.
The United Nations has been playing down such concerns and giving the regime an easy ride on its efforts to manipulate the elections, its critics say. The UN’s head of peacekeeping operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, told the UN Security Council there were only ‘rare instances’ of delays at polling stations and failed to mention pro-FCC ballot-stuffing, we hear.
Monusco chief representative Leila Zerrouguiinstructed her staff to stay away from polling stations on election day and did not protest CENI’s decision just days before the election to cancel polls in the opposition strongholds of Beni and Butembo on the pretext of an Ebola and security crisis. Voters turned out anyway in their tens of thousands to hold mock elections in these locations.
Diplomats and officials of the African Union, which deployed an election observer mission, admit in private they are convinced that Fayulu has won. The US and some European governments are pressuring South Africa and Angola to discourage Kabila from fixing the poll results and declaring a Shadary victory, which would spark mass protests.
This week, Monusco has been documenting cases of CENI officials printing ballot-papers on printers in private locations. The US Department of State issued a statement on 3 January reminding Kinshasa of the AU’s call for the official results to align with the actual votes cast and that ‘those who undermine the democratic process, threaten the peace, security or stability of the DRC, or benefit from corruption may find themselves not welcome in the United States and cut off from the US financial system’.
What do the neighbours think?
Many of the thousands of new troops deployed across Congo-Kinshasa to suppress potential post-election violence, especially in the case of a victory being declared for ruling party candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, are ex-members of the disbanded pro-Rwanda militia, the Mouvement du 23 mars(M23) Kinshasa military sources say.
Diplomats from the region told Africa Confidential that the vanguard of the recent intake to the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congowere ex-M23 fighters handed to FARDC by Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame. The diplomats say Kigali supports President Joseph Kabila’s plan to install Shadary because this may be the best way to maintain Rwanda’s leverage over Congo-K’s institutions and army, and so control conflict on Rwanda’s western border.
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni is apparently unhappy with this plan, and his intelligence operatives have been infiltrating ex-M23 and other fighters still hostile to Kabila and Kigali into the Ituri and the Beni areas to oppose the FARDC contingents there.
Sources close to the Rwandan government say they have evidence that a cross-border December attack from Congo-K which killed at least two Rwanda Defence Force soldiers was led by the mainly Hutu militia, Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), working alongside the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) opposition rebel group of General Kayumba Nyamwasa, the exiled general who is based in South Africa and who Kigali believes now to be working with Kampala.
Kigali’s backing of Kabila’s succession plan is fragile, however, given that the RNC is believed to have hundreds of fighters in South Kivu who are tolerated, if not more, by the FARDC. In his New Year television address, President Kagame criticised two unnamed neighbouring countries for supporting both the FDLR and RNC which no local diplomats doubt are Burundi and Uganda. – Africa Confidential.