Elation, suspicion over DR Congo result

Venaani hails Tshisekedi victory, Hopwood sceptical

11 January 2019 | International

Namibia's official opposition leader McHenry Venaani has hailed the victory of his “good friend” Felix Tshisekedi in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) presidential race.

Tshisekedi was declared the winner of the long-delayed, disorganised and controversial presidential election early yesterday morning.

Venaani, who leads the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), said he is elated about the outcome, adding it is a positive sign for democracy in the South African Development Community (SADC).

“This is the first-ever democratic transition since the 1960s in the DRC. Africa is coming of age. Change is on its way,” said Venaani.

However, Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) executive director Graham Hopwood said he is not convinced that the DRC election was free and fair, even though it may have been peaceful.

“The fact that it took nine days to announce the results is worrying - especially as the DRC used EVMs (electronic voting machines), which should have made the announcement of results a much quicker process. The opposition challenger who was seen as favourite to win, Martin Fayulu, has already rejected the results and called it an 'electoral coup'.” Hopwood said the delays gave plenty of time for outgoing DRC president Joseph Kabila's government to negotiate with Tshisekedi, who is seen as a more acceptable opposition candidate.

According to him the concern is that Tshisekedi had negotiated indemnity for the Kabila regime in return for being declared the winner.

“It has the appearance of a negotiated settlement rather than a genuinely free and fair election.

“I do not expect SADC to intervene or investigate further. The regional grouping has a very poor track record on supporting free and fair elections, as shown by the way they approved fraudulent and violent elections in Zimbabwe over the years. I'm sceptical as to whether this is a major step forward for the DRC, although it is obviously good that Kabila is gone,” Hopwood added. Venaani said he chaired a meeting in 2016 which aimed to unite DRC opposition leaders ahead of the election. “There is no middle-class in the country and the poor have been left out. The poor people must know that they have the power to change things in the country.”

Venaani said the PDM had also consulted with Tshisekedi's party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, and several other African parties last year on how to run an effective election campaign.

He said the PDM hopes to meet Tshisekedi very soon.

Venaani said the people of the DRC have experienced unprecedented suffering and therefore Tshisekedi has a daunting task ahead of him to change the governance infrastructure.

All People's Party (APP) president Vincent Kanyetu congratulated the DRC citizens for their bravery and eagerness to stand up for equal rights and facilitate change in their country. “This is a sign of the bell ringing for change in Africa,” he said.

He said Tshisekedi must now set the agenda.

Kanyetu further called on African nations that are heading to the polls this year to have free and fair polls.

International relations minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah also congratulated the DRC.

“Namibia hopes that all people in the DRC will work together to support the incoming president and we look forward to a stable and peaceful DRC.” Nandi-Ndaitwah said this will not only benefit the DRC, but also SADC at large.

“We look forward to working with DRC in the future.”

Tshisekedi received more than 7 million votes (38%) and comes from a storied political background. His father Etienne Tshisekedi founded the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, the oldest and largest opposition party in the DRC. The incoming president took over the party after his father's death in 2017.

Fayulu, who came second in the presidential race, following the 30 December 2018 vote, has claimed the result was rigged.

He received more than 6 million votes (34%) and claims he won, but was deprived of a victory because a deal was made with Tshisekedi.

It has been suggested that Kabila's government made a deal with Tshisekedi to declare him the winner, when hopes faded for the ruling party's candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. He received just 23% of the vote. Both France and Belgium have already challenged the outcome of the elections.