After a difficult election process marred by irregularities, violence, delays, and allegations of fraud, the results of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s presidential elections were released this morning with incumbent President Joseph Kabila winning with 48.97 percent of 18.14 million votes. His closest opponent, Etienne Tshisekedi, won 32.3 percent of the vote. In reaction to the release, Tshisekedi declared the results to be fraudulent and says
that he is the rightful president. Before the results were even released Tshisekedi’s supporters had pledged to protest in the streets if President Kabila won. Meanwhile, outside observers fear that violence is likely if protests take place, as the government announced it will deploy the army to the streets if protests become “too chaotic”.
Incidents of violence were reported all over the country before and during the election. Human Rights Watch reported that at least 18 people had been killed and 100 injured in election-related violence, the majority were allegedly killed by government security forces. The Saturday before the election Kabila’s government banned all political rallies in the capital of Kinshasa, citing security concerns. Rallies in support of Tshisekedi were staged despite the ban and were violently suppressed by riot police. Violence continued during the election, with 15 polling stations burned down by angry voters waiting for delayed ballots to arrive.
President Kabila has been president for ten years since the assassination of his father President Laurent Kabila. He was appointed to replace his father by government ministers in 2001. Kabila was re-elected in the D.R. Congo’s first free election in 2006, beating his main opponent Jean-Pierre Bemba. Violence between government security forces and Bemba’s personal guard after the election killed hundreds of people. There is distinct possibility that history will repeat itself. Though the President’s supporters praise his use of diplomacy to end Congo’s wars with its neighbors, Kabila remains largely unpopular in the neighborhoods of Kinshasa and is considered by detractors to more interested in increasing his personal power than developing the impoverished country.
Tshisekedi, a firebrand populist, is perceived by many of his supporters to be an uncorrupted politician after he broke publicly with dictator Mobuto Sese Seko and was jailed in the 1980s. His anti-corruption, free education and universal healthcare platform is popular among voters in a country as underdeveloped as the D.R. Congo. Before the election began, he declared that he was the rightful president of the country, indicating he was not likely to accept vote results that showed otherwise. In a statement released to the public this morning, Tshisekedi denounced the results saying they were an, “outright provocation to our people and I reject them in full. As a result, I consider myself from this day on as the elected president of the Democratic Republic of Congo”. With his supporters primed to riot on his behalf, Tshisekedi’s refusal to accept the results of the election may trigger violent street protests and an even more violent suppression.
Nearly ten thousand civilians have already fled Kinshasa for the neighboring country, the Congo Republic, ahead of expected violence between government forces and Tshisekedi’s supporters. The government of the Congo Republic is constructing a refugee camp for Congolese fleeing post-election violence. Already reports have circulated of gunfire heard in the streets of Kinshasa and Mbuji Mayi. United to End Genocide will continue to monitor the developing situation and further information will be published on UEG’s blog.