By Zach Waksman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo – Etienne Tshisekedi, Congo’s opposition leader, has refused to acknowledge the results of last’s month’s elections to determine the president of the violence-torn central African country. Despite receiving just 32% of all votes cast, compared to 49% for incumbent Joseph Kabila, the 79-year-old declared himself the winner. Kabila, who succeeded his father in office ten years ago, is scheduled to be inaugurated Tuesday.
“I consider myself the president-elect of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and it is in that capacity that I address you this evening and thank the people for the confidence they have placed in me,” Tshisekedi said. He will hold his own ceremony on Friday.
The election results have drawn controversy from outside observers. Congo, which has vast mineral deposits but is near the bottom of the United Nations’ human development index, ran elections that the United States’ ambassador to the country viewed as “seriously flawed.” Several other countries and the European Union also considered the vote’s validity questionable.
Congo insists that the election is legitimate.
“We as a government have followed every step of the constitution,” Kikaya Bin Karubi, the country’s envoy to Great Britain, told Reuters.
In a December 10 press release, the non-profit Carter Center, which helped monitor the process, reported that the results “lack credibility.” In reviewing the election, it found that official procedures for handling materials were not always followed, which occasionally led to lost votes. An estimated 400,000 votes from more than 3,000 polling stations were lost due to these problems. The Carter Center also noted that the vote totals for some regions were highly unusual, such as one local compilation center which tallied over 227,000 votes for Kabila versus three for other candidates.
In spite of these clear problems, the Congolese Supreme Court upheld the election results, and therefore Kabila’s victory, last Friday. In response to the announcement, protests and looting swarmed the streets of the capital. Sunday, Tshisekedi called for more radical action, urging the country’s security forces not to follow orders issued by Kabila.
“I ask you to be calm and serene because a winner doesn’t get agitated, does not worry, to the contrary, he remains calm. As for those who are causing our troubles, starting with Mr. Kabila, I ask all of you to look for him, wherever he is in the country, and bring him to me alive. Whoever brings me Kabila here, handcuffed, will receive a very big prize,” he said. “Also, Mr. Kabila’s government is dismissed from this day on. All officers, lieutenants, caporals and soldiers of the Congolese armed forces, I order you to obey  the legitimate authority. The same goes for the national and sovereign police force.”
Kabila’s group has, so far, not taken his language seriously. Though Tshisekedi’s comments were referred to as a “joke,” the president’s team still considers the ramifications significant.
“Mr. Tshisekedi is following a criminal logic,” said Kabila spokesman Aubin Minaku, who warned that the opposition leader could be arrested for his rhetoric. “Anywhere in the world, when an individual commits a crime, whatever his rank, even a presidential candidate, especially when he incites international crimes, the state must react vigorously, and the International Criminal Court should react vigorously too.”
November’s election was the first to have been organized and operated by the Congolese government, and only the second democratic vote in the country’s history.
For more information, please see:
AFP — Tensions Rise Ahead of DR Congo Inauguration — 19 December 2011
Al Jazeera — Congo Opposition Leader Seeks Army Backing — 19 December 2011
BBC — DR Congo’s Tshisekedi Orders Army to Disobey Kabila — 19 December 2011
Al Jazeera — Congo’s Opposition Leader Insists He Won Poll — 18 December 2011
Congo Planet — Tshisekedi Says He Is President-Elect, Asks Security Forces to Arrest Kabila — 18 December 2011
Washington Post — Congo Opposition Leader Declares Himself – Not Kabila – Election Winner, Urges Calm — 18 December 2011
CNN — Court Upholds Congo Elections — 16 December 2011
Carter Center — Carter Center: DRC Presidential Election Results Lack Credibility — 10 December 2011