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DR Congo - 2018 Elections

On 10 January 2018, DRC's presidential elections, the Democratic Republic of Congo's election board, CENI, proclaimed Felix Tshisekedi the winner of the country's presidential elections. The election commission named Tshisekedi, son of the country's late veteran opposition leader, as provisional winner of the bitterly-contested December 30 vote – a surprise result his main opponent promptly denounced as an "electoral coup".

Tshisekedi is the head of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), a party founded by his father Etienne, who spent decades as the country's main opposition leader but died in February last year. Since his father founded the UDPS in 1982, the party has served as an opposition mainstay in the former Belgian colony – first under dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, then under Kabila's father Laurent-Desire Kabila, who ruled from 1997 until his death in 2001. A father of five, Tshisekedi goes to the same Pentecostal church as Fayulu in Kinshasa, the capital. Although he did not enjoy the same degree of popularity as his father, he had risen steadily through the party ranks. "Etienne was stubborn and proud," said one keen observer of the country's opposition. "Felix is more diplomatic, more conciliatory, more ready to listen to others." Tshisekedi has promised a return to the rule of law, to fight the "gangrene" of corruption and to bring peace to the volatile east of the country, where several militias remain active more than 15 years after the end of DR Congo’s bloody civil war.

DR Congo's powerful Catholic Church said election results tallied by its observers did not match official results announced by the country's election commission. The Church said election results tallied by its 40,000 observers scattered across the country showed a different winner, without specifying who. "We see that the result of the presidential election as published by CENI (the electoral commission) does not correspond with the data collected by our observer mission from polling stations and counting centres," said Father Donatien Nshole, spokesman for the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), which represents the country's Catholic bishops.

Runner-up Martin Fayulu, the pre-election favourite, said the results announced on Thursday do “not reflect the truth of the ballots”, urging the Congolese to "rise as one man to protect victory". In an unusually blunt comment on a foreign election, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also waded into the controversy, describing the results as “not consistent" with observers' reports. He added: "The Catholic Church of Congo did its tally and announced completely different results."

The result of the presidential election, which observers said was marred by a spate of irregularities, fueled suspicions among Fayulu's supporters that Tshisekedi struck a power-sharing pact with Kabila – suspicions heightened by his victory speech on Thursday, in which he described his former bitter opponent Kabila as a “partner of democratic change”. Fayulu, who was running well ahead of Tshisekedi in opinion polls ahead of the election, called on the Congolese people to "rise as one man to protect victory." Analysts have warned that any widespread perception the election has been stolen could trigger a cycle of unrest, particularly in the eastern borderlands where Fayulu enjoys some of his strongest support.

Opposition leaders slammed the postponement of elections scheduled for on 23 December 2018. The country had been due to vote this Sunday - in a poll it was hoped would end the two-year old crisis over the future of President Joseph Kabika. On 20 December 2018 DRC's electoral commisson ordered the poll be put back a week -- in order to replace voting equipment lost in a warehouse fire. An alliance of parties backing opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi had said any further delay would not be accepted.

Campaigns have kicked off in the Democratic Republic of Congo ahead of the long awaited election. President Kabila had chosen a successor and parts of the opposition have united behind a common candidate. After a two-year delay, President Joseph Kabila finally bowed to political pressure and chose his successor in the ruling party candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. While not all the demands of the opposition and civil society groups, such as the release of political prisoners, the skepticism over the newly introduced voting machines and the registration of all presidential candidates, 21 presidential candidates are running for the top post.

The opposition's decision to field a common candidate comes more out of necessity rather than unity. Two heavy weights, Jean-Pierre Bembaand Moise Katumbiwere both excluded from the race, after attempting to put forward their candidacies. The two were among the six opposition leaders backing Fayulu. Like the ruling party candidate Shadary, Fayulu is not considered to be one of the main political figures in Congolese politics.

Congo's ruling coalition and part of the opposition agreed 16 October 2016 to move the ballot to April 2018 in meeting which was boycotted by the main opposition parties in the African country. According to a deal, President Joseph Kabila would stay in power at least until April 2018, when the rescheduled presidential vote was due to take place. Originally, the vote was set for November 2016. The deal also included the installment of a new prime minister from the opposition, most likely Vital Kamerhe from the Union for the Congolese Nation.

In line with the October agreement between supporters of Congolese President Joseph Kabila and an opposition faction, the country's prime minister, Augustin Matata Ponyo, announced his resignation November 14, 2016. A new government of national unity is expected to be named shortly, even though many opposition members are still against the agreement. The dissolution of the government had been expected since 18 October when Kabila supporters and an opposition faction led by Vital Kamerhe reached a deal for managing the country after December 19, the final day of the president's second and, under the current constitution, final term. The deal stated Kabila can stay in office until the organization of elections — which have been provisionally scheduled for April 2018 — and Kamerhe's opposition faction would join a government of national unity. A larger opposition coalition, known as the Rassemblement [French for "rally" - a common name for a political party], rejected the agreement.

Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila named opposition lawmaker Badibanga Ntita Samy to lead the unity government that would run the country until postponed elections are held. The choice of Samy was seen as a surprise. Vital Kamerhe, who led the opposition faction that negotiated with Kabila, was widely expected to become prime minister.

Kabila’s final term in office expired on 19 December 2016, with no election to choose a successor and amid a surge in popular anger over what opponents say is an attempt to cling to power in defiance of the constitution. Human Rights Watch (HRW) said security forces killed at least 26 demonstrators and arrested scores more amid protests against Kabila's hold on power. The deaths were the first reported since Kabila's mandate ended at midnight. Official sources said 11 people died.

The leader of Congo's largest opposition party, Etienne Tshisekedi – or “Tshitshi”, to his many supporters – urged peaceful resistance to what he called Kabila's "coup d'état". In a statement 20 December 2016, he called the president's actions "treason" and appealed to the Congolese people and the international community to no longer recognise Kabila's authority. Tshisekedi was President Joseph Kabila’s most formidable political foe and one of the few opposition figures with the stature, experience and support base to navigate a peaceful end to his country’s latest crisis.

Political talks between the ruling party and opposition failed to reach an agreement on a date for new elections or the release of political prisoners. Both were key demands of the opposition parties, along with the dropping of criminal charges against opposition leader Moise Katumbi.

On 01 Janaury 2017 the government and opposition parties in the Democratic Republic of Congo clinched a hard-won deal over President Joseph Kabila's fate, ending a political crisis that sparked months of deadly unrest. Under the terms of the deal, Kabila would stay until the "end of 2017" but a transition council would be established, headed by opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi. In addition, a prime minister would be named from the opposition ranks. The talks were launched by the Roman Catholic Church to ward off violence as Kabila's second and final mandate ended on 20 December 2016 with no sign of him stepping down and no election in sight.

Democratic Republic of Congo’s main opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi, one of the country’s most important advocates of democracy, died in Brussels aged 84, diplomatic sources said on 01 February 2017. Tshisekedi stood up to Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled the country then known as Zaire, for decades before being overthrown by Rwanda, Uganda and other forces. He was also the main civilian opponent of Laurent Kabila, who took power in 1997, and his son, President Joseph Kabila, who had ruled since 2001. As such, he was a pivotal figure in Congo, whose history had been marked by foreign intervention, civil war, coups and authoritarian rule. His stalwart activism meant he could draw huge crowds.

Tshisekedi was set to take the top post in a transitional council agreed in December under a deal to pave the way for Kabila to leave power in 2017 and refrain from running for a third term as president. His death deprived the opposition of its principal figurehead as talks over implementation of the December accord falter. His son, Felix, was tipped to be named prime minister in a forthcoming power-sharing government.

The Democratic Republic of Congo's long-awaited presidential elections have been scheduled for December of 2018, the Electoral Commission president announced 05 November 2017. The DRC was due to have elections in 2016, but the national elections commissioner had said elections this year are not possible due to the ongoing conflict in the Kasai region and the need for a national registry of eligible voters. Long-time president Joseph Kabila had refused to step down even though his second term expired in December 2016.

Congo's electoral commission had said it would not be ready to conduct elections until April 2019 at the earliest. The opposition accuses Kabila of trying to buy time until he can change the constitution and eliminate term limits. During a visit to the central African country last week, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Niki Haley called for free and fair elections by 2018, saying that Kinshasa would not receive international help with the vote if there were any further delays.

Both civil society and the media are diverse and vibrant in the DRC despite challenges such as inadequate funding and lack of capacity. Given the poverty in the country and the limited availability of outside funding, the financial situation of most civil society groups is also quite precarious. Politically oriented groups such as human rights associations also face threats and harassment that hinder their work. Many groups have difficulty effectively lobbying the government, instead taking a purely antagonistic approach to the state. Despite these challenges, civil society associations play an important role in bringing people with common interests together and providing services and support in the face of limited state service provision.

The media is another bright spot on Congo’s political landscape, though like human rights groups, journalists face threats, harassment, and pressures to accept fees for positive reporting. The DRC benefits from a proliferation of newspapers and other publications, and national, provincial, and community-based radio and television stations. The large number of media outlets provides a diversity of perspectives and lively public debates on a range of public issues in the DRC. Nevertheless, government harassment of the media is high.

Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila would not stand in December's presidential election, a spokesman said on 08 August 2018, announcing that former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary would be the ruling coalition's candidate. The announcement by spokesman Lambert Mende at a news conference puts an end to years of speculation about whether Kabila would defy term limits to run for a third term. The selection of Ramazani, however, represents a defiant move by Kabila.

A former interior minister, he is under European Union sanctions for human rights abuses, including deadly crackdowns by security forces on protesters. As Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Interior and Security since 20 December 2016, Ramazani Shadari was officially responsible for the police and security services and coordinating the work of provincial governors. In this capacity, he was responsible for the arrests of activists and opposition members, as well as the disproportionate use of force since his appointment, such as the violent crackdown on members of the Bundu Dia Kongo (BDK) movement in Kongo Central, the repression in Kinshasa over January-February 2017 and the disproportionate use of force and violent repression in Kasai provinces. In this capacity, Ramazani Shadari was therefore involved in planning, directing, or committing acts that constitute serious human rights violations in DRC.

Several opposition candidates, including former vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba and the president of Congo's largest opposition party Felix Tshisekedi, also registered to run. The regime's "war chest dwarfs those of most opponents. It had near total control of the security forces, and a strong footing in the electoral commission and the Constitutional Court. Through all of these levers, the regime can dictate the timing of the electoral process and calibrate how much political space it allows the opposition in different parts of the country.

Seven opposition leaders from the DR Congo picked little known lawmaker Martin Fayulu as their joint candidate for long delayed presidential elections at the end of December when Joseph Kabila stands down after ruling for 18 years. Fayulu, the leader of the Engagement for Citizenship and Development party, would stand against Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a hardline former interior minister backed by Kabila in the December 23 vote, a statement said 11 November 2018 after three days of gruelling talks in Geneva.

The opposition leaders meeting in the Swiss city included two heavyweights in former warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba and ex-provincial governor Moise Katumbi. Both have been barred from standing in the election. Three others besides the 61-year-old Fayulu had been authorised to contest the poll: Felix Tshisekedi, head of the long-standing UDPS opposition party; Vital Kamerhe, a former National Assembly speaker; and former finance minister Freddy Matungulu. The choice was a surprise development with Tshisekedi widely regarded as the front runner before the announcement.

On November 11, The son of DR Congo's veteran opposition leader, Felix Tshisekedi joined six other opposition leaders in rallying behind Fayulu to take on Kabila's handpicked successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. But the deal drew a furious response from his supporters, prompting him and fellow opposition leader Vital Kamerhe to abandon the deal and run on a joint ticket, weakening and splitting the opposition. The pair had previously agreed that if they won, Kamerhe would become Tshisekedi's prime minister.

Voters in three Congolese cities known as to be opposition strongholds were excluded from presidential elections on security and health grounds, Demonstrations erupted across Congo's areas hardest-hit by Ebola after the government announced it would delay voting in the country's upcoming elections in these regions. The decision to cancel voting in Beni and Butembo in the east and Yumbi in the west, was seen by demonstrators as voter suppression from the government, rather than as a precaution due to an Ebola outbreak and militia violence as has been suggested. The Congolese have neither forgotten nor forgiven the previous delay. They speak of the 'sliding' (glissement) by President Joseph Kabila from his last term in office into the present regime. He should have stepped down as president two years ago on December 20, 2016. That was when his second and final mandate expired. For most Congolese, he is committing an illegal act by remaining at the helm since then.

Around 3 percent of DR Congo's 40 million eligible voters will have to wait until March 2019 to cast their ballots, long after the successor to President Joseph Kabila has been decided. The rest of the country will finally go to the polls after more than two years of delays and a last-minute postponement of one week after a fire in the capital Kinshasa destroyed a large amount of voting materials.

Some 40 million registered voters chose from a crowded field of 21 presidential candidates in the election, which took place alongside legislative and municipal ballots. The opposition was split between two main candidates, Martin Fayulu, a former Exxon Mobil manager who was a relative unknown months ago, and Felix Tshisekedi, the scion of late opposition icon Etienne. Kabila's preferred successor, the former Interior Minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, ran on the ruling party's ticket. An opinion poll by the New York University-affiliated Congo Research Group put Fayulu in the lead with 44 percent, followed by Tshisekedi at 24 percent and Shadary lagging behind with 18 percent.

Final results for the presidential vote were to be announced on Jan. 15, with the new president sworn in on Jan. 18, the national electoral commission (CENI) said. Results were announced on 10 January 2018, with Felix Tshisekedi declared the election's winner.

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Page last modified: 10-01-2019 12:21:15 ZULU