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DR Congo’s Interesting Political Haze

For those of you interested in politics on the African continent let me give you a quick summary of the fallout of elections held on the 30th of December 2018 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and also highlight a few interesting issues.

 

THE ELECTION

 

DR Congo (DRC) recently held an election and the President, Joseph Kabila was barred from contesting because he had served the two term Presidential limit imposed after the country’s shaky return to democracy.

 

The election, which is currently being disputed by major stakeholders was won by Felix Tshisekedi, leader of the Union for Democracy & Social Progress (UDPS). He beat Martin Fayulu who is the leader of a coalition of opposition political parties that was tipped to win the election and Emmanuel Shadary, presidential candidate of People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PRRD) which is the ruling party to second and third place respectively.

 

THE RUN UP TO THE ELECTION

 

It’s alleged that to continue to exert some influence in the country and to enjoy his “freedom” after leaving office, President Joseph Kabila handpicked Emmanuel Shadary to contest as Presidential Candidate of PRRD, which is the ruling party.

 

To present a more formidable front to kick out the ruling party, opposition parties in DRC also formed a coalition led by Martin Fayulu to contest against the PRRD.

 

In the run-up to the election, one of the biggest opposition parties (UDPS), led by Felix Tshisekedi pulled out of the opposition coalition to contest the election.

 

Prior to the election, polls by other groups and the Catholic Church which is a very powerful stakeholder in DRC indicated that Fayulu would win the election by a landslide.

 

POST ELECTION FALLOUT

 

Here’s where the story gets interesting.

 

Contrary to popular pre-election predictions, Felix Tshisekedi emerged winner in the elections and Joseph Kabila is being accused of conniving with CENI, which is the Electoral Commission in DRC to rig the election.

 

The question is, if he had the power to rig the election, why didn’t he rig for his own party?

 

The puzzle deepens.

 

Kabila and Tshisekedi are fierce political rivals. Felix is the son of Etienne Tshisekedi, the founder of the UDPS and a charismatic politician who once served as Prime Minister and tried unsuccessfully for 35yrs to lead the DRC. Etienne who died in 2017, was Kabila’s fiercest political opponent and he challenged the results of the 2011 election results in court.

 

To give a bit more background, Joseph Kabila is the son of Laurent Kabila, a powerful rebel leader who successfully ousted the once powerful Mobuto Sese Seko; then one of the richest and most powerful leaders on the African continent. Laurent himself was assassinated in 2001 and his son, Joseph took the reins of power just ten days later the assassination.

 

The question is, why will Kabila rig an election for the party of his fiercest political rival?

 

The theory suggests that Shadary was largely unpopular and the Congolese also wanted anyone other than the Kabila’s and their allies in power.

Kabila, being a very shrewd politician decided to cut a deal with his fiercest rival (Felix Tshisekedi) who did not have a chance at winning the election because Fayulu, who was largely tipped to win the election refused to play ball with Kabila, who wanted a “safe passage” after the elections to enjoy his life after the Presidency.

 

Therefore, Kabila who allegedly exerts a strong influence on CENI connived with them to allegedly rig the election in favour of Felix Tshisekedi.

 

Now the Catholic Church and Fayulu are disputing the results of the election.

 

Whilst others believe that it was impossible for Kabila to cut a deal with his fiercest political rival and that Felix Tshisekedi had genuinely won the election, others are arguing that both generational political enemies had a common interest and it was possible for them to find a common ground.

Another issue is that, why is the Catholic Church and other foreign powers so interested in discrediting the elections when the democracy in DR Congo can be described as fragile?

According to a friend of mine; Peter Clottey, who works for the Voice of America and reports extensively on Africa, there’s a saying that “if you understand Congo’s politics, then whoever explained it to you did a poor job or failed to explain it to you well”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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