African neigh­bours urge re­count in DRC after claims of Ka­bila ‘fix’

The Guardian - - WORLD - Ja­son Burke

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.

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