The Democratic republic of Congo main opposition leader, Martin Fayulu, is currently urging his supporters to embrace what he calls “peaceful resistance”. He believes rival candidate, Felix Tshisekedi colluded with former President Joseph Kabila to steal the December 30th 2018 presidential election. He called it a constitutional coup, accusing the court of validating false results in an election that 25 candidates registered to run for presidency. His recent move was after a United Nations rights group unearthed more than 50 mass graves in the Western Democratic Republic of Congo after a spate of killings were reported in the region at four villages in Yumbi, a week before the election.
Almost the size of continental western Europe and twice the size of Nigeria, the DRC is rich in gold, uranium, copper, cobalt and other minerals, but little wealth drops down to the poor. In the last 22 years, it has been twice a battleground for wars drawing in armies from central and southern Africa. That legacy shows in the jungles of eastern DRC, where militias have carried out hundreds of killings.
Insecurity and an ongoing Ebola epidemic in part of North Kive province, and communal violence in Yumbi, in the southwest, prompted the authorities to postpone the elections initially scheduled to hold on December 30, 2018 alongside the presidential ballot and legislative and provincial elections. It will now be held in March, 2019. The national election supervisors had ordered a week-long postponement of the presidential election blaming a warehouse fire that destroyed voting machines and ballot papers earmarked for Kinshasha, the Country’s capital
Despite this, the election in the rest of the country was held. There were reports of clashes at polling stations that claimed the lives of a Police Officer, an electoral officialsand two civilians on polling day.
In the end after two weeks of tension and waiting, the final results of the presidential vote was published on January 15, and the next president was sworn in on January 18 this year. The country’s National Independent Commission (CENI) moved on without explaining how this would dovetail with the delayed vote in the troubled regions.
Fayulu, who finished second in the election has reportedly proposed in a letter to the African Union (AU) that a new poll be held again in six months. Congolese protesters talked about the death of democracy after the election.
Interestingly there was muted response from the international community on the reportedly fraudulent election in the Congo. The AU hastily convened and just as hastily abandoned a mission to DR Congo’s capital that has been intended to promote a negotiated solution to the row over electoral fraud. The request to delay the announcement of official results were ignored .The AU was left with nothing to negotiate. For an organisation that promotes “African solutions to African problems”, it was a debasement.
The U.S Ambassador to Kinshasha, Mike Hammer, hailed a “first ever peaceful democratic transfer of power, in the process managing to look past the State Department’s own publicly expressed concerns over the electoral process. France’s foreign minister said the declared victory of Tshisekedi was not “consistent” with the results and that his rival Fayulu appeared to have won.
It is clear, the regional and international actors opted for what diplomats call “Stability” in the Congo. For the Congolese people, this means a continuation of the existing muddle while hoping that it does not collapse into disaster. It means millions of Congolese displaced from their homes by conflict, living in dire poverty and threat of disease, denied a share in the immense mineral wealth of their nation, bullied and preyed upon by armed groups do not expect amelioration of their plight anytime soon. Observers of the Congo politics believe that the foisting of the plans of the west in the country could further degenerate into upsurge of violence, ethnic cleansing, new refugee and IDP flows as well as other fall-outs which necessarily accompany democratization process imposed by the west.
It is now clear that the western world can readily pay lip service to ideals of human rights and accountable government in order to create a “stability” in Congo that would enable them to continue the exploitation of the country’s rich mineral resources for a pittance.The western world is turning inwards from African as there are preoccupied with their own problems. British foreign policy is now focused on Brexit, in the United States, the White House and the legislators are busy with the Mueller investigation, the Mexico border wall saga and the zoro elections.
Their inward-looking is not just in relation to the Congo, but also to Zimbabwe with its crackdown on dissent and Sudan’s popular uprising against the regime of President Omar al-Bashir. Yet the response of the international community has been muted. British Foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt called on Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa not to turn the clock back” as Zimbabwe has moved forward since the ousting of Robert Mugbabe at the end of 2017. The Western powers have only expressed “deep concern” over Bashir’s leadership because he has been useful in the fight against violent Islamist. Meanwhile the AU could only lamely remind “Sudanese political leaders of their collective responsibility to pursue constructive, peace avenues for addressing the country’s pressing challenges”.
Nigeria’s case is already showing that it would not be different. President Buhari’s firing of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Ononoghen, who would have played a crucial role in a disputed election result, received a similar mute response from the international community.
The US, EU and the UK all merely sounded their displeasure. Their response to the postponement of the 2019 presidential election to February 23 was equally muted. The UK government urged Nigerians to be patient and support the democratic process, affirming their own support “including through redeploying our observer team to be present at the elections.
In its reaction, the US said it fully supports the decisions of the heads of ECOWAS and other international missions on the postponement of the election in Nigeria.
Tension over the postponement of the presidential election four hours to daylight of February 16 is mounting with the confidence of the political parties in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) shaken. The political parties are going ahead with their campaigns ignoring the directive of INEC to stop campaigns after the postponement. The Electoral commission flouted the Electoral Act which stipulates the end of campaigns 24 hours prior to polling day. The opposition have accused the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, of sabotaging INEC in a well-orchestrated plot to engineer a staggered presidential election.
Meanwhile, Boko Haram and unknown gun men have increased the intensity of their killing of security agents, men, women and children in the North East and Kaduna state on the eve of the presidential election. But after the example of DR Congo is there an appetite by the West for anything more than words should Nigeria’s presidential election finally go awry?
Awuru writes from Abuja