A Travellerspoint blog

Kinshasa: the Aftermath

overcast 27 °C

On Friday just after 15h CAT the CENI announced, province by province, the results of DRC’s Presidential Elections, and thus declared Joseph Kabila’s second term as President over main opposition candidate Etienne Tshisekedi.

This was not without its hiccups. The announcement was due on Tuesday 6 December. Because of delays to counts, logistical problems and violence at polling stations this was delayed 48 hours until Thursday 8 December. On Thursday we were told 18h, then 20h, then 22h, then nothing. On Friday morning we were told 10h, then 11h, then midday, and then we waited for 3 hours.

I watched the results being announced with a group of Congolese men, aged between 23 and 50, from a range of provinces and political alliances. They were all in agreement about one thing – the results were not accurate. Who won is almost a moot point, I think Kabila was probably genuinely re-elected; the problem is by how much. In Kabila strongholds almost 100% of registered voters turned out to vote, where as turnout nationwide was only 58%, and much lower in opposition strongholds. In some areas of Katanga turnout was 100.14% and Kabila won 99.98% of the votes, but in Kinshasa the results from 2,000 polling stations ‘went missing’ amid the chaos. Almost the same number of people voted in each province but the numbers of voters registered by the CENI themselves makes that almost impossible - 3,287,745 in Kinshasa and 4,627,302 in Katanga - and seems very odd when relative populations are compared, 5.6 million Katangans to 10 million Kinois. In Maniema Province, the birthplace of candidate Vital Kamerhe, Kabila again won by a massive majority. The numbers of invalid ballots was huge, each time this figure was read out there were gasps from those around me at how many votes had been lost.

Of course it is only now, from the comfort of their air-conditioned offices in Washington DC, that election observer mission the Carter Centre has decided to declare that the elections ‘lacked credibility’ and that perfect turnout in Kabila strong holds that were not seen in opposition areas are ‘impossible’. However, despite astonishing mistakes with the maths, there was ‘no smoking gun’ to suggest the wrong man won.

Tshisekedi rejects the count saying his UDPS party’s own counts suggest he won 54% and thus he considers himself the elected President. The Supreme Court must ratify the vote on 17 December. It’s going to be an interesting week.

Posted by hobbit1 07:57 Archived in Democratic Republic of Congo Tagged election elections drc kabila kinshasa katanga Comments (0)

Actual Results Day in Kinshasa

sunny 30 °C

Today is actually Results Day.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of President Kabila’s inauguration and under the constitution he is unable to remain as President for longer than 5 years – that run out in a matter of hours. For obvious reasons it is not ideal for DRC to be sans President but particularly because the President is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces – an uncontrolled FARDC is not what anyone wants.

The CENI will announce delayed results from their office on the Boulevard 30 juin this evening at 2000h [8pm to civilians] and with almost 90% of votes counted Kabila is ahead with 49% of the vote to Etienne Tshisekedi’s 33.3%. The opposition has already said that they will not accept the results because of widespread fraud, violence, intimidation and huge delays to voting in opposition strong-holds. President Kabila has said that he would accept defeat but that if he is re-elected he will not accept any challenges to his position. It’s gearing up to be an interesting time.

Not that anyone from outside DRC would know anything about it. The international media has been wildly disappointing in reporting in this period – I have seen the same 3 photos circulating on all the major media websites for over a week and the same 26 second report on a loop on all the major news channels from here to Australia. It’s enough to give one the feeling that the world doesn’t care about DRC – shouldn’t have held elections at the same time as Egypt.

Posted by hobbit1 08:13 Archived in Democratic Republic of Congo Tagged elections drc kabila kinshasa Comments (0)

Results Day in Kinshasa

overcast 31 °C

Today is Results Day.

After weeks of security planning, meetings and radio checks we were all ready to lock-down ahead of the election results today, and we headed to the supermarket on Saturday morning to do some last minute hibernation shopping. Imagine my surprise to be approached on the Boulevard 30 juin by a man offering to sell me print-outs of the election results. The CENI is not supposed to officially announce results until today but all weekend they have been releasing partial results from each province in an attempt to counter the false results being published by almost everyone. And it looks like President Kabila is coming out on top; 46% to Tshisekedi’s 36%, with Kamerhe in 3rd place with 7%, in the 60% of nation-wide results released. It seems to be much of the same as in 2006 with Kabila taking huge majorities in the Eastern Provinces of Katanga, North and South Kivu, Maniema and Orientale whilst Tshisekedi is winning by a comfortable margin in Kinshasa and East and West Kasai but not enough to counter Kabila’s overwhelming wins in the east.

Tshisekedi’s UDPS party have already said they do not accept the partial results as an accurate reflection of the will of the Congolese people and although President Kabila has said he would accept defeat he has also said that he ‘will not tolerate any threats to his power’ in the event that he does win. The international community is sufficiently worried. They have held meetings with the President and opposition at their homes to try to avoid widespread violence in Kinshasa, where Tshisekedi is expected to win a comfortable majority and his supporters are unlikely to take kindly to an overall Kabila win. The Catholic Church of Congo had 30,000 election observers at more than 25% of the voting centres throughout the country, more than any other observer missions, but have declined to release their own estimates from exit-polling saying ‘it is not their role’ – presumably because their observers, and the entire organisation, are Congolese not internationals, and have to live under whichever Government is eventually installed.

An estimated 3,000 Kinois have crossed over to River to the RoC side ahead of results, a curfew has been imposed in Mbuyi-Mayi, an opposition stronghold, to limit protests and units of the Republican Guard have been deployed in Lubumbashi, Katanga Province to keep order after 3 men were killed on Election Day.

The streets of Kinshasa are empty, for now.

Posted by hobbit1 00:22 Archived in Democratic Republic of Congo Tagged elections drc kabila kinshasa Comments (0)

Election Day in DRC

storm 18 °C

Today is Election Day!

It’s raining heavily this morning and there have been rumours that rain could delay proceedings [floods, access, comms] so we are hoping it clears up for the afternoon……

Planned rallies on Saturday and Sunday were cancelled at the last minute but there was still time for UDPS, PPRD and PNC [Police] to clash in Masina [15k out of the city centre] on the road to the main international airport N’Djili. Etienne Tshisekedi arrived at the airport and was detained, preventing him from following his planned campaign route into the city centre. Vital Kamerhe was held under house arrest for the day. After a fair level of violence in Masina in the morning [10 dead, 40 injured say Radio Okapi] the Governor of Kinshasa cancelled all the rallies citing ‘security concerns’. The centre of town stayed calm.

At the Stade de Martyrs, one of the main staging grounds for political meetings over the campaign, large groups of street kids ‘chegues’ were taking sides, beating each other up, and throwing stones across the Boulevard Triomphale. The role of street kids in electioneering has been overlooked – there are huge groups of fairly hardened and violent young people [8-17 years] surviving on Kinshasa’s streets that have no political loyalty to one party or another but will wear a free t-shirt and plump up the crowd for the price of a Coke, and will take advantage of chaos and disorder to steal. A large number of the photos in the press this weekend were of street kids, not political party members [take a look at their feet – no shoes=street kid] and information from various Embassies asking us to avoid the area due to election violence suggests this particular aspect has been wildly misunderstood. I suppose that’s not new for the kids…….

[Added 29th November........]

Today is still Election Day!

After logistical difficulties and heavy rain in the morning yesterday voting has been extended into today. Due to the HUGE number of candidates to vote for [only 11 to choose from in the Presidentials but in the Parliamentaries there are 8 seats and 650 candidates in some areas] it takes an average of 26 minutes for each person to vote. That is if they can even find the polling stations, which are not all where they are supposed to be say EU observers.

Violence has been minimal and concentrated in specific areas. Lubumbashi is reporting 3 dead yesterday after a truck carrying voting materials was fired upon and police retaliated. West Kasai is reporting 3 polling stations burnt down by protestors and various areas of Equateur are reporting voting abnormalities.

Good news so far.....

Posted by hobbit1 01:01 Archived in Democratic Republic of Congo Tagged elections drc kinshasa street_kids Comments (0)

Live from Kinshasa

From relative safety in Kinshasa for the Presidential election period. My sources are Congolese nationals and all names have been changed to protect identities.

sunny 35 °C

Today is the first day of ‘restricted movement’ in the capital. We have all done our hibernation shopping [water, fuel and pasta] and made up our Go Bags [pants, hard-drive and cigarettes] and are now playing ‘wait and see’ for the future of one of Africa’s biggest countries.

Over the last few months there has been a fair amount of posturing from a selection of candidates but the big news has been the absence of historic rival to the incumbent and main opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba of the MLC. He is indisposed by his trial at the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in neighbouring Central African Republic by his Equateur-based militia. He is still a huge political power in DRC and as he refused to step-down as Leader of the Party and allow someone else to stand in his place, the main opposition party under which all others would have united has no presidential candidate.

In Bemba’s absence an old [75] leader of the Kasai people at the time of refoulements, living in Belgium, announced his presence at the beginning of 2011 with a boom and a bang stating the Mobutu regime was less corrupt than that of the current President Joseph Kabila in an interview with a National paper. Etienne Tshisekedi had arrived. He and his supporters, of the UPDS, have created more headlines than any of the others and election violence has been mainly focused between them and the supporters of the current President Joseph Kabila and his PPRD party. In September 2011 this rivalry ramped up with the burning of several houses and key offices of the 2 parties and a huge number of UDPS supporters and campaigners have been arbitrarily arrested. Tshisekedi left the country immediately after depositing his formal candidature and has been travelling around Europe and South Africa trying to gain international backing for a very expensive electoral campaign. He, like all the others, visited Bemba in the Hague to gain his political, financial, and military backing, and although Bemba remains officially on the fence, calling for unity of the opposition, privately he is said to favour Tshisekedi as the candidate with the best chance of bringing change. President Kabila’s main rival in the East is his former ally Vital Kamerhe of the UNC, who has also signed a political pact with Moize Katumbi, Governor of Katanga Province. He is young and has a good reputation and a strong following in the East.

Added to this mix is the new National Independent Electoral Commission [CENI] led by former political advisor to Kabila, Pastor Daniel Ngoy Mulunda from Katanga Province. Problems started early in 2011 when the ruling PPRD party proposed changes to the voting systems that were seen to greatly benefit themselves and other allies. Reports of huge vote fixing started when the CENI announced the number of registered voters eligible for 2011 elections [more than 32 million], following a leaked report from a private Belgian company revealing double-registration for significant proportions of the population, and a report by MONUSCO radio revealed some of the CENI registered offices didn’t even exist. And in a more traditional move, opposition radio and TV stations have been shut-down leading up to November 28th. In Equateur there were considerable doubts about the CENI’s ability to distribute election kits throughout the province to ensure all eligible voters could vote. Road conditions are incredibly poor, even more so in rainy season, the infrastructure is very weak and viable alternative transport [commercial flights, UN etc] are very thin on the ground.

Lest we forget the DRC [four times the size of France] is running legislative elections for more than 18,000 candidates for both houses along-side the national Presidential Elections – a logistical nightmare for even the most developed and experienced countries to navigate.

Tomorrow, Saturday 26th, all three main candidates [Kabila, Tshisekedi and Kamerhe] will be holding huge rallies in close proximity across Kinshasa. This has the potential to get very very ugly……..

Posted by hobbit1 08:57 Archived in Democratic Republic of Congo Tagged elections drc kabila kinshasa Comments (0)

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