Whistleblowers in the government leak results confirming claims by the Catholic Church that the announced result was false.
A cache of data leaked from the state’s electoral commission points to an overwhelming victory by opposition presidential candidate Martin Fayulu, reinforcing earlier calls by regional organisations for a recount.
The leaked data starkly contradicts the official results announced on January 10th which purport to show that another opposition candidate, Félix Tshisekedi, who is thought to have agreed a political fix with outgoing President Joseph Kabila, had beaten Fayulu by about 650,000 votes.
The leaked data indicates that, in fact, Fayulu beat Tshisekedi by over 5m votes.
Africa Confidential, which has seen the leaked figures along with media groups such as South Africa‘s Daily Maverick, the London Financial Times, Radio France International and France’s TV5, has tested their authenticity with data and voting experts, as have the other organisations.
Plot to steal election
The escalation of Congo’s election dispute presents another challenge to Kabila. Political insiders say the deal struck with Tshisekedi was intended to allow outgoing President Kabila to rule from behind the scenes after he leaves office.
One reason for the deal was the abysmal showing of Kabila’s favoured candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. Despite substantial state resources behind his campaign and backing from the incumbent, Shadary won less than 20% of the votes, according to the leaked CENI data.
Those close to the negotiations between Tshisekedi’s team and the Information Minister Lambert Mende suggest that Kabila would retain extensive powers over security and mining contracts under a Tshisekedi presidency.
On January 11th, Fayulu submitted an election petition to the Constitutional Court which will decide on the matter within a week. Fayulu claims that the tally sheets from the 75,000 polling stations show him winning 61% of the vote.
The dispute has raised fears that the country’s political crisis, which erupted in 2016, could worsen. Image: CC 2012
The powerful Catholic Church in DR Congo had said the provisional result of the December election, naming Tshisekedi as winner, did not reflect the data its observers collected from polling stations, The EastAfrican reported.
CENCO, which represents the country’s Catholic bishops and which deployed more than 40,000 observers to monitor the elections, said it knew who had won the vote but did not reveal who it was, instead urging CENI to publish the results “in keeping with truth and justice.”
There were street protests against the result and clashes with security forces in parts of Kinshasa, Kisangani and in Kwilu province, although they have not yet escalated, Africa Confidential notes. Some fear that disputes over the results could spark fighting in the volatile east.
After January 7th, armed insurgents killed more than 25 people near the city of Beni, a Fayulu stronghold where the electoral commission said it suspended elections over concerns about an Ebola outbreak. Many doubted this was the real reason as all the rival parties had been allowed to campaign in the area for several months.
Continental leaders will gather at the African Union (AU) on January 17th to discuss the disputed election, a spokeswoman for the body said, quoted by AFP. The dispute has raised fears that the country’s political crisis, which erupted in 2016 when Kabila refused to step down at the end of his constitutional term in office, could worsen.
The meeting at the AU headquarters in Ethiopia was called by Rwandan President Paul Kagame, chairman of the body until February. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his attendance on Twitter, though it remained unclear which other leaders would join him.
Vast and unstable, the DR Congo has never had a peaceful transition of power since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960. It became a battlefield for two regional wars in 1996-97 and 1998-2003, and the last two presidential elections, in 2006 and 2011, were marked by bloody clashes.
The country’s top court now has eight days from when Fayulu’s appeal was lodged on January 11th to render a verdict. (Africa Confidential 15/1; AFP 16/1 2018)
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