Political tensions escalate as polls draw nearer in DRC
Written by: George Kalisa
Tuesday, December 11th, 2018, 3:50
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will go to polls on December23 to determine the successor of incumbent President Joseph Kabila whose second and final term expired December20, 2016 according to the Constitution of the mineral-rich African country. The DRC election is the most anticipated on the Continent this year with all eyes fixed on it.
Kabila’s ruling party, the People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD) on August4 named Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary,57, a former Interior Minister its flag-bearer in the highly anticipated Presidential polls. November27, 2016 was the original poll date before they zeroed on the end of 2017, a promise that suffered a deadlock as there was lack of political commitment to hold the polls.
President Kabila who allegedly delayed the elections after his term ended has been the Congolese President since 2001. The Constitution prohibits him from seeking a third term.
His delay to pronounce his stand on whether he would stand or step down as President had attracted scathing criticism from Western powers, especially the US, Human Rights watchdogs and insurmountable pressure from the Catholic Church in DRC.
It is against this backdrop that the DRC general election has attracted global attention and whether the war ravaged central African nation can hold a free and fair election is still in balance according to many observers in the region.
At last Kabila pulled out and Shadary campaigns under his wings as his victory does not seem to be on a silver platter in the second democratic election of DRC in this long-delayed poll due to fire-spitting opposition.
To protect President Kabila’s backed candidate, Shadary, the government backed Independent National Electoral Commission, CENI a French acronym, banned the main Congolese opposition leaders and moneybags Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former Vice President and Moïse Katumbi a former Governor of Katanga Province from participating in this election.
Recent drift in the opposition coalition favours PPRD
Leading opposition political parties in DRC had November2, chosen Martin Fayulu Madidi,62, their flag bearer. The move was fierce and regarded a political tsunami that would send Kabila’s PPRD into the Congolese political limbo if it were not betrayed a few days later.
Several political pundits said if the coalition had not hosted unpredicted cracks would send President Kabila’s blue-eyed boy, Shadary packing and finally into the Congolese political limbo.
The coalition codenamed Lamuka was brokered in Geneva under the auspices of Kofi Annani Foundation.
Coalition candidates initially included: Adolphe Muzito (NOUVEL ELAN) Vital Kamerhe (UNC), Felix Tshisekedi (UPDS) and Freddy Matungulu Mbuyamu (CONGO NAS BISO/SYENCO).
“In order to bring this political struggle to a successful conclusion, the Lamuka coalition voted to select Mr. Martin Fayulu Madidi as the common candidate for the presidential election on 23 December 2018,” Freddy Matungulu, a coalition member told media after sealing the declaration.
Events took a new twist on November23 that punched holes in the Lamuka slimming chances of Faluyu to assume DRC’s top job. Vital Kamerhe and Felix Tshisekedi announced the second coalition in Kenyan capital Nairobi that fronted Tshisekedi, son of veteran opposition Chief Etienne Tshisekedi as the common candidate following Kamerhe withdrawal from the presidential race.
Why the opposition may lose to PPRD
The growing insurgence in eastern region which is a stronghold of the ruling party may makes hard for the opposition to verify with accuracy the voter turnout and protect their vote all the way to the tallying stage.
The fragile security situation there may give way to “manipulation” of biometric electronic voting systems, which are strange to the Congolese people and hence Shadary stands a chance of winning this region, observers contend.
Needless to mention, the current divisions in the opposition two weeks shy of the polls favour the PPRD candidate.
Equally, the main opposition leaders Bemba and Katumbi had not had ample time to drum for support ahead of the polls since they have been out of the country.
Also, the impartiality and credibility of CENI is virtually in balance given its early excuses [some of which are still present] to hold the election in time. CENI had cited lack of a credible voters register and insecurity in some parts of the country.
Currently, dozens of militia groups, especially the Allied Defense Forces (ADF) have been fighting in areas near Beni that has suffered the second biggest Ebola outbreak after West Africa according to the World Health Organisation.
Reports indicate insecurity in pockets of Eastern DRC remains on high scale and violence had escalated in recent days.
By and large observers still invest enormous confidence in the African Union (AU) and other regional bodies such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) to ensure that the election meets the standards of a free and fair election to allay forthcoming post-election violence particularly if the opposition cries foul play.