NYO'NGO: Peace, national security and nurturing democratic institutions in DRC paramount

Congolese riot policemen disperse supporters of Martin Fayulu, as he delivers his appeal contesting the Congo’s National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) presidential results on January 12 / REUTERS
Congolese riot policemen disperse supporters of Martin Fayulu, as he delivers his appeal contesting the Congo’s National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) presidential results on January 12 / REUTERS

A few weeks ago, in this column and well before anybody predicted the results of the DRC presidential election, I argued that provisional results from various observer missions showed Felix Tshisekedi was the leading candidate.

He is from the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS). This could also be corroborated from the Electoral Commission's provincial data obtained as votes were counted and made known to political party agents.

My article was based on results from all the provinces collected by various observer missions and a group of scholars who have followed DRC politics leading to these elections. Indeed, several opinion polls taken in the DRC and by experts in the US had consistently put Tshisekedi in the lead for the last three years.

I was, therefore, surprised to see French and Belgian sources catapulting Martin Fayulu from single digit popularity a few months ago to over 40 per cent support a week or so before the election. Not surprising, and keeping to their aim of "popularising" Fayulu

at all costs, the French and the Belgians, relying entirely on the evidence from the Catholic Church in the DRC, insisted that the National Electoral Commission had wrong results and the true results, showing Fayulu as the leading candidate, were in the hands of the Catholics.

I would have been happier were the Belgians and the French more nuanced in their arguments in support of a Fayulu win. It is interesting to note that well before the Electoral Commission announced the official results, nobody, except the Catholic Church and myself, had said anything about who might have won the election. My article was very specific: I gave evidence showing Tshisekedi was the leading candidate. The Catholics, fearing a breach of the DRC election laws, but nonetheless issuing a "veiled threat" against the Electoral Commission, argued that their data showed "a winning candidate", which the Commission was not to betray by issuing a contrary result.

I found this underhand intimidation of the Commission rather unfortunate. The Church's partisanship was quickly revealed when Fayulu declared the Commission's figures as telling "half truth" and the Catholic Church as the only institution that has the "real truth" following the results based on samples taken from across the DRC. Be that as it may. Supposing the Electoral Commission had announced Fayulu the winner and the Church had announced Tshisekedi the winner, what would Fayulu

had said about the position of the church?

Methinks it is fair, at this point to take a position which would be helpful to the Congolese people as a whole and not just to candidates or individual political parties. In this regard, I take exception to an article appearing in the

January 15, 2019 issue of the Financial Times pushing for a Fayulu win, again based entirely on the position taken by the Catholic Church but arguing that evidence was taken from the database of the Electoral Commission.

The Financial Times provides two conflicting figures for Fayulu. One that he won by 59.4 per cent based on some large database FT analysed. The other is that he won by 62.8 per cent based on the database from the Electoral Commission. The FT does not confirm, from its own expertise of electoral practices in any known democracy proven in social science literature, where the truth is likely to fall.

Further, it would have been interesting to know whether the FT took interest in any other candidates. Like the church, FT's attention on the election results in the DRC is focussed on one issue: To demonstrate that Fayulu won the election. If this is the case, then many more people are likely to come up with equally well-presented figures from the Electoral Commission showing other candidates have rightful claims to having won the presidential election.

Let us not forget the fact that, except in apartheid South Africa and a few places in Anglophone Africa such as Kenya of the 1970s to 1990s, the Church has largely played a very conservative role in this continent. The link between the Catholic Church in Africa and the colonial powers in Europe, including the Papal Sea, is nothing new.

The fact that Belgium would still like to reclaim King Leopold's lost empire in Central Africa must not be taken lightly. And the Catholic Church, as an institution, has never taken a stand against this.

Much more significant in this regard is the role played by the "raw commodity hunters" and "raw mineral diggers" in perpetuating political instability and authoritarian rule in Africa.

Formerly weak colonial powers such as Belgium easily fall prey to these primitive accumulators since an unstable DRC is easier to exploit — or literally rape — in terms of the raw harvest of her mineral resources — than a well governed, stable, secure, NATIONAL democratic and developmental DRC.

So the Financial Times should not, at this time, tell the DRC to recount her election results when it has dismissed the very institution in charge of doing this — The Electoral Commission. This is even more dangerous when the Financial Times, like the Catholic Church, both decide to speak ex cathedra in telling the Congolese people that the results by these two "interested parties" are the only true and dependable results. This is a recipe for chaos.

Let us all accept that the conditions in the DRC makes it very difficult for holding a free and fair election as we would expect in Kenya, Nigeria or Ethiopia. Infrastructure is a problem. The capacity of the state is another. The mechanics of running an election still remain problematic.

But all this does not excuse the DRC government to deny the people the vote when, against all these odds, the people still got out of their way to vote this last December.

Kabila's government still stand accused of having done its best to make life difficult for all opposition candidates during these elections. While on the campaign trail I did not hear any complaints, either from the Catholics or their European comrades, that Kabila was favouring Tshisekedi. It is only after the results that the conspiracy theory was constructed to justify a rigged election against Fayulu.

To be fair, let all players cut their losses and capitalise on their gains in putting together a broad national democratic coalition to stabilise the DRC, deal with issues of insecurity and safeguard national unity so as to give development a chance. The Electoral Commission, notwithstanding its weaknesses, has given presidential election results very much in keeping with past opinion polls. Felix Tshisekedi, the winning candidate, has accepted to discuss the formation of such a government by all parties concerned.

It would be useful to give this proposal a chance for a fixed period of time while the DRC's capability and capacity of conducting a democratic election is built.