Amid Congo election dispute, rival candidates carefully plan confrontation
Congolese President Joseph Kabila and opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi both claim to have won the Nov. 28 elections. Tshisekedi is now calling for street protests.
Congo could be at risk of another round of violence, as the two men who both claim to be president of the country draw up strategies of confrontation.Skip to next paragraph
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President Joseph Kabila and opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi each claim to have won the Nov. 28 ballot, the second in the country’s history since the fall of the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in 1998. Election observers have called the recent elections “seriously flawed,” and “lacking credibility.” Even President Kabila admits that “mistakes” were made, but says that the number of disputed ballots would still not deny him a victory.
Official results from the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), gave Kabila the victory, with 49 percent of the vote, compared with Mr. Tshisekedi’s 32 percent.
It all comes down to mathematics: If the opposition can come up with enough disputed or missing votes, 1.5 million, it can claim victory.
Opposition leader Tshisekedi, whose party the Union for Democracy and Social Progress is conducting its own vote tally from polling station results, has meanwhile called for “peaceful and democratic demonstrations.” Neither Tshisekedi nor Kabila appear to be reaching out to each other for a negotiated solution, and diplomats are working behind the scenes to prevent a clash that could cost civilian lives.
In Kinshasa, US Amb. James Entwistle cast doubt on the official CENI final results, telling the Reuters news agency, "The United States believes that the management and technical execution of these elections were seriously flawed." The elections, he said, “lacked transparency and did not measure up to the positive democratic gains we have seen in recent African elections."
While Africa has witnessed a kind of democratic renaissance in recent years with the end of authoritarian regimes such as Zimbabwe, Sudan, and Uganda, disputed elections still have the potential for horrific violence. In Kenya, after the disputed Dec. 27, 2007, elections, more than 1,300 people were killed and 300,000 displaced before the two main parties agreed to sit down and negotiate their way into a power-sharing agreement. In Cote D’Ivoire, the Nov. 2010 election gave a clear victory to opposition Alessane Ouattara, but President Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to step down pushed the country dangerously close to civil war.