The 2018 General Elections in the DRC – What next?

The 2018 general elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, held on 30th of December, were set out to determine a successor of the long-standing president – Mr. Kabila (Wembi 2017). As a matter of fact, power transfer has never undergone a peaceful process in Congo. In this regard, Mr. Kabila, who ruled as of 2001, attempted with all his might to obstruct the democratic voting processes in the country. The 2011 election which he purportedly won in a legitimate manner, were widely unpopular and considered as mockery and corruption. His last term in office was expected to come to a final end in 2016. However, even when it expired, Kabila did not leave his riling position. Instead, he decided to shift public attention to the chaos in the country and cite it as the primary reason for the government’s inability to organize elections. Thereafter, he consolidated his grip of power for two more consecutive years and ruled against postulations in the Congolese national constitution, while ruthlessly murdering and slamming down pro-democratic movements and demonstrations (The Economist 2019).

In the context of the 2018 general elections in the DRC, Félix Tshisekedi (Union for Democracy and Social Progress) was found out to win the votes on the 10th of January with an overwhelming turnout of 38,6% of the total vote, surpassing his oppositional candidates Martin Fayulu and Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. Importantly, Mr. Fayulu, who was second in the voting turnout, asserted that the vote was set up hastily and was absolutely not representative of the popular political affiliation. He then moved to challenge the outcome of the elections in the Constitutional Court of the DRC. The state’s influential Roman Catholic Church took his side claiming that the official voting turnout was not compliant with the results of its own observations. In this regard, the Church had deployed nearly 40,000 election monitors which, as stated, “place Fayulu as the winner” (Burke 2019). Thereafter, the Constitutional Court came up with a decision on the 19th of January declaring that Fayulu’s challenge to the outcome will not be taken into consideration and shall thereby be deemed invalid. As a result, the victory of Mr. Tshisekedi was upheld and conceived of as indisputable and final.

In relation to the other oppositional leader – Mr. Shadary, prior to the vote, opinion polls revealed an evident popularity of the opposition candidates against Mr. Shadary himself, who was backed by the ruling People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy. He was seen to offer nothing but a continuation of the present grievances facing the country – widespread poverty, rebel cruelties such as rapes and robbery which go unpunished due to ubiquitous corruption and negligence of the officials and government. Nevertheless, Mr. Shadary possessed indisputably advantages as measured against the backdrop of his opposition. That is to say, he instilled fear and terror in voters by commanding police to threaten people with physical violence unless they casted their vote in his favour. What is more, police blocked oppositional campaigns’ marches in the capital and installed presence of soldiers in the Eastern regions, wherein the latter would forcefully “convince” voters to vote for Shadary: “They were telling people that if they did not choose him, they would be stopped and beaten” (The Economist 2019).

Despite the concerted efforts on part of Fayulu and Shadary with their trusted appointees, Félix Tshisekedi was appointed as the 5th President of the DRC on the 24th of January 2019, marking the first, purportedly peaceful transition of power in the state since it gained its independence in 1960 from its former colonizer – Belgium (Burke 2019).

 

References:

Burke, Jason. “Congo Election Runner-up Rejects Tshisekedi Victory as ‘Electoral Coup’.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 10 Jan. 2019, www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/10/congo-election-felix-tshisekedi-declared- winner-in-contentious-result.

“Congo’s Flawed Vote.” The Economist, 5 Jan. 2019, pp. 26–27.

Wembi, Steve. “Uncertainty as DRC Sets Election Date to Replace Kabila.” GCC News | Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 9 Nov. 2017, www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/11/uncertainty- drc-sets-election-date-replace-kabila-171109074747003.html.

In Rwanda, a political icon leaves prison with her mouth closed

By Akayezu Muhumuza Valentin
Rwandan Human Rights Activist

On 14th September 2018, the Rwandan Ministers’ Cabinet approved President Kagame’s decision to grant a presidential pardon to the political prisoner Umuhoza Ingabire Victoire. In 2010, Ingabire was nominated by her political party FDU-INKINGi to run in the 2010 presidential elections. At this time, her arrival in Rwanda after several years in exile provoked strong reactions and controversies in the Rwandan political landscape. Her remark at the genocide memorial site in Gisozi turned into accusations of genocide denial. A few days later, the anti-Ingabire campaign began. First, it was the Rwandan Agency of Information that organized a radio debate, mainly focused on Ingabire’s speech at Gisozi memorial site. Many argued that her political aims were provocative and revisionist. Shortly after, all the chambers of parliament called an information hearing to describe the true image of Ingabire.  The conclusions of this session recommended an immediate judicial inquiry to be opened against her. In the same time, during an interview with a Ugandan journalist in Kampala, President Kagame denied the status of politician in Ingabire and qualified her as being the same as Alice Lakwena who founded Lord Resistance Army in northern Uganda. Early this year, asked by a journalist of TV5  why the Rwandan government known for its firm commitment to promote the female promotion threatens women who act in political opposition, the Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs replied that not all Rwandan women are saints. She said there are also witches.

When the Ingabire’s episode of a judicial saga started, the High Court of Rwanda sentenced her to seven years of imprisonment. The sanction was increased by the Supreme Court of Rwanda to 15 years. Recently, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights issued a verdict confirming serious violations in the Ingabire trial and even recommended the government of Rwanda to compensate her. But it should be noted that the government decided to withdraw from the protocol that grants immediate access to Rwandan citizens to bring an action before this court without the government’s prior approval. The Rwandan Minister of Justice accused this court of being instrumentalized by the genociaries. At the beginning of Ingabire’s trial in the High Court, it was reported that she had addressed a letter asking President Kagame for forgiveness. However, she later denied it. Has she asked pardon again? At this time, nothing was said if she has asked for forgiveness once more!  In practice, among the charges brought against her, the crime of undermining national security excludes her from the persons who could be pardoned by the President of the Republic.

What does her release mean for the political context in Rwanda? Although the decision of the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights recognised her profile as a political personality arrested on basis of  her ideas, the Rwandan government did not want to implement it. However, it is quite possible that pressures and other different dynamics pushed the government to find ways to get her out of prison not as a victim of a judicial travesty, but as a convicted person who will no longer be able act on the political scene. In this regard, the liberation of Ingabire shows no sign of democratic progress in Rwanda. The political space in the country remains closed.

GLR August Meet-Up Facing Burundi

On August 31,  Great Lakes Region Monthly Meeting theme is centered on : ‘Facing Burundi’

Topical discussion surrounding the situation of the Great Lakes region with emphasis on Burundi

This event will include:

–       A historical background of the political crisis of Burundi

–       The common misunderstanding of happenings within Burundi

–       Solidarity and mobilization among Burundians

–       How the diaspora and international community can contribute

–       An hour for question & answer session

 

 

June Recap: