The Democratic Republic of Congo’s supreme court in mid-December upheld the victory of Joseph Kabila in disputed elections and he was sworn in on December 20th at a ceremony in Kinshasa. The army deployed tanks on the streets.
Etienne Tshisekedi, the top opposition candidate and veteran politician, insisted he had won and was said to be planning his own inauguration. He stopped just short of calling mass protests but urged the security forces to defect and recognise him as the elected president.
International observers said voter turnout and Kabila’s margin of victory were impossibly high in some districts. Organisations including the International Crisis Group, Enough and the Open Society Foundations had urged the government to delay the inauguration, saying the vote was “marred by widespread irregularities”. Amnesty International said that DR Congolese security forces had been detaining opposition supporters since the election. The United States said it was “deeply disappointed” by the court decision to uphold the results of an election it called “seriously flawed”.
The European Union also pointed to “serious deficiencies” in the vote and said it would “re-evaluate its support come the next stages in the Congo’s democratic process”.
In a message of national unity, Mr Kabila, who has been in power for over a decade, spoke of being the president of all citizens of Africa’s second largest country. Mr Kabila became president after his father’s 2001 assassination and later won the 2006 UN-organised election. The UN still has 19,000 peacekeepers in DR Congo which is mineral-rich but has suffered appallingly through decades of dictatorship and civil war. The eastern provinces are still wracked by violence from a plethora of militias and rebel groups.
DR Congo holds more than half of the world’s cobalt, 30% of all diamonds, 70% of coltan – a vital ingredient in mobile phones – as well as huge deposits of gold, copper and various other minerals but this year’s UN human development index placed DR Congo bottom of the 187 countries surveyed.
Results showed Mr Kabila with 49% and Mr Tshisekedi with 32% of the nearly 19 million votes cast. Before recent electoral reforms Mr Kabila would have needed 50% to have avoided a run-off.
The life and times of Joseph Kabila Kabange
Born June 4th 1971 in South Kivu Province, but spent his childhood in Tanzania
Became President in January 2001 – 10 days after the assassination of his father, President Laurent-Désiré Kabila who had overthrown long-time ruler Mobuto Sese Seko in 1997.
Oversaw the signing of a peace accord in 2002 to end a five-year conflict involving several other nations.
Became the country’s first freely elected President in 2006 winning a run-off poll with 58% of the vote.
His 2011 campaign was built around his “five building sites of the republic”: Infrastructure; health and education; water and electricity; housing and employment.
Kabila is married with one daughter and one son.
Find out more with the following back issues of the Africa Research Bulletin