African neighbours urge recount in DRC after claims of Kabila ‘fix’
A powerful regional body of African states has called for a recount in the presidential election in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The move underlines growing worries that instead of marking a turning point for the troubled country, the December 30 vote and the political crisis it has triggered will instead lead to a slide into anarchy and violence.
Conflict in the vast, mineral-rich DRC has the potential to destabilise significant parts of Africa. A civil war from 1997 to 2002 killed 5 million and drew in all neighbouring states.
The surprise victor of the election was Félix Tshisekedi, leader of the country’s main opposition party. He beat a second opposition politician, Martin Fayulu, by a narrow margin. Fayulu, a widely respected former business executive and parliamentarian, claims he won by a landslide and that Tshisekedi struck a deal with the outgoing president, Joseph Kabila, to be declared victor.
Fayulu’s claims have been bolstered by the Roman Catholic church, which deployed 40,000 election monitors and says its data shows a different winner from that announced by the electoral commission.
Yesterday’s statement from the Southern African Development Community, which includes 16 states, notes the “strong doubts cast on the poll outcome by the … church, the opposition coalition and other observers” and calls for a recount “to provide the necessary reassurance”. The organisation also suggests “a negotiated political settlement for a government of national unity”.
While Kabila, in power since 2001, can ignore pressure from western powers, major regional states have significant leverage. He was constitutionally banned from standing for a third term and reluctantly called the elections under pressure from Angola and South Africa. Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, Kabila’s handpicked candidate, came a poor third.
The church has refused to reveal who it says won, but diplomats say its data indicates a clear victory for Fayulu, in line with pre-election polls that had put him at least 20 points ahead of Tshisekedi. Fayulu filed a fraud complaint on Saturday with the DRC’s highest court to challenge the result.