To the surprise of many observers, the Congolese Electoral Commission (CENI) announced on the night of Wednesday, 9 to Thursday 10 January 2019 the historic victory of the opponent Felix Tshisekedi (38.57%), ahead of Martin Fayulu (34.8%) and the candidate supported by incumbent President Joseph Kabila, Emmanuel Shadary (23%).

The runner-up, opponent Martin Fayulu, does not believe in this scenario. He denounces fraud in the results and accuses the president of the CENI to have “violated the electoral law” and denouncing on Friday 11 January an “electoral coup” of the outgoing president Joseph Kabila Kabange with the “complicity” of Mr. Tshisekedi, and claims the victory with 61% of the votes. He filed on Saturday 12 January, an appeal in the constitutional court against the poll result.

It is true that these results published by the CENI do not correspond to the figures announced by the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), which deployed more than 40 000 observers around the country on Election Day. Its spokesman, Abbot Donatien Nshole, said that “the results … as published by the CENI do not correspond to the data collected by our observation mission”. This situation causes a certain discomfort for Felix Tshisekedi, especially when we know the considerable weight of the Catholic Church in the political arena in the DRC since 1990s. The European Union asked “the publication of the written results from each polling station”. The United States called for “clarification” and urged all parties to calm, such as the African Union or the United Nations (UN). The Great Lakes statement issued overnight expressed “deep concern” about the various challenges to the official results, and urged Congolese authorities to be more transparent in the interest of the country’s stability.

The prudence of the international community with regard to the results provided by the CENI is due to the objections of the all-powerful Catholic Church, which has also asked the United Nations for the publication of the written results “to remove doubts”.

These presidential elections hold an exceptional character. Although postponed three times, this is the first time since the country’s independence that an incumbent president has agreed to step aside to allow a peaceful transition of power. But are they really democratic? According to the suspicions issued by the various observers, fraud was observed at the time of the counting.

According to members of the Lamuka coalition (“wake up” in Lingala) headed by Martin Fayulu, there is a power sharing agreement between Jospeh Kabila’s Common Front of Congo (FCC) and “cap pour le changement” (Cach) by Felix Tshisekedi.

What is possible is that the Kabila clan and Kabila himself realized that their candidate had no chance of winning – which is the case because he has 20% of the votes – on the basis surveys and a number of indications.

In power for more than 20 years, the Kabila clan is suspected to be involved in cases of fraud and human rights violations. Knowing that Martin Fayulu is allied with political heavyweights Moïse Katumbi and Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, two enemies of the president Joseph Kabila, he could fear that the situation would turn against him. Kabila is suspected of making a backroom deal to alter the results in order to protect his vast assets from Fayulu’s anti-corruption efforts. He had everything to gain from an agreement with Felix Tshisekedi.

“There was a vote, which gives direction, but it is Joseph Kabila who chooses the winner,” said the professor at the University of Kinshasa, Jean Omasombo, in an interview published Saturday by La Libre Belgique.

So it’s quite normal to think that Tshisekedi’s victory is arranging the Kabila clan and that there was an agreement made and maybe, why not, that they did everything for Tshisekedi to pass.

“I pay tribute to President Joseph Kabila, and today we must not consider him an adversary but rather a partner in democratic alternation in our country,” Tshisekedi said after the the presidential election.

If Tshisekedi’s victory was the result of a political deal between him and the Kabila camp, and not a legitimate victory, there will have been other elements of power sharing that will have been agreed. These would most likely have been around key ministries such as defence, interior and foreign affairs. The army will remain a pillar of Kabila’s power, as will the intelligence services. 


Carmel Gabie is a native of Congo, is a master’s student in African Politics at the University of South Africa.

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