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Dispatch: Validating Elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

4 MINS READDec 7, 2011 | 23:02 GMT
Africa Analyst Mark Schroeder examines South Africa's turn at validating election results, this time in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and what it could mean for the winner. VIDEO TRANSCRIPT: Final results from national elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are to be released late Thursday, Dec. 8. Initially due to be released by Dec. 6, the country’s independent electoral commission asked for another 48 hours to complete their tallying of votes from the 60,000 polling stations dotted around the vast country. Results released so far show that, with 89 percent of the vote counted, incumbent President Joseph Kabila has 48 percent of the vote, against 34 percent to his top opponent, Etienne Tshisekedi. Kabila is likely to withstand whatever direction the remaining tally goes and will emerge in control of another five-year term as president of the DR Congo. The likely loss to Tshisekedi will mean the end of a long-standing attempt by the 78-year-old Congolese opposition politician at becoming the country’s president. Tshisekedi has served in various capacities — including three turns as prime minister — for all governments of the Congo going back to its independence from Belgium in 1960. Probably the most significant shaping of support of the incumbent are the statements of affirmation of effectively an orderly election by South African President Jacob Zuma, speaking a few days ago in his capacity as president of the peace and security element of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the regional body in Africa that Congo is most involved with. Zuma, and foreign diplomats stationed in the Congo, have over the last few of days held discrete discussions with Congo’s top presidential candidates, likely to impress upon them to accept the vote outcome and not foment unrest, which Tshisekedi supporters — though not the opposition politician himself — have threatened to do. Notwithstanding poor management and preparation by the Congo's electoral commission, the lack of any significant statement by the international community that the election was less than adequate, combined with Zuma speaking on behalf of SADC, means Kabila is de facto assured of recognition. On the other hand, Tshisekedi will be assured of condemnation and zero support should he foment unrest in Kinshasa — the capital — or elsewhere in the Congo. The International Criminal Court prosecutor has also already warned that Congo politicians fomenting unrest will be answerable to The Hague. Zuma and SADC are effectively taking a page from what happened in Ivory Coast following that country’s national elections, which occurred in late 2010. There, the international community as well as the African regional body — ECOWAS — most closely involved in Ivorian affairs, quickly and steadfastly determined the election to be on track, and that the results, whenever released, reflected genuine voter aspirations. The result of this effort, no matter the actual vote, was that Ivorian opposition leader Alassane Ouattara received the full and unbreakable support of the international community concerned with Ivory Coast. Then-President Laurent Gbagbo was unable to put traction to any efforts on his part to demonstrate the voting environment was irregular or manipulated by the Ouattara camp. South African sponsorship of the validity of the election process in the Congo will lead to Kabila owing part of his legitimacy to the South Africans. South Africa has long had eyes on Congo’s mineral wealth as well as other natural resources, such as opportunities for tapping into the country’s hydroelectric power potential. While South Africa may have until now been less than fully aggressive in demanding a quid pro quo in return for pro-Kabila foreign policy efforts in the Congo, South Africa will likely start demanding economic and strategic concessions from the Kabila government. Whereas in the West African country of Ivory Coast, South Africa was far removed from its natural region of influence, the Congo is within its sphere. With no assertive stance by the rest of the international community concerned with the Congo that the election was less than adequate, South Africa’s lead on shaping the Congo election validity will stand.

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