Kabila likely won Congo poll

2011-12-09 12:33

Kinshasa - After days of tension in Congo's capital as the nation awaits election results, traffic began to flow once more, women selling cassava leaves took up their usual positions on the sides of roads and a few international airlines allowed their planes to resume flights to Kinshasa.

But anxiety remained high that the Central African nation stretching over a territory as large as Western Europe would descend into violence, with supporters of opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi vowing on Thursday to take to the streets if President Joseph Kabila is declared the winner.

Outside the headquarters of Tshisekedi's party, police fired teargas and live rounds to push back the agitated crowd earlier in the day, witnesses said.

Victory seemed certain for the incumbent based on partial returns. Those results, representing 90% of the vote cast, gave Kabila a more than 14-point lead over Tshisekedi, who had 34%.

In the capital's best hotel, Kabila's party had rented a ballroom and his supporters wearing T-shirts printed with his photograph were already holding a victory celebration.

Double-checking results

Instead of issuing results as promised on Thursday, the country's election commission chief called a hasty news conference to announce another one-day postponement.

"We need to double-check the results," Daniel Ngoy Mulunda said late Thursday. "We are before a very demanding public."

A spokesperson for Tshisekedi's party continued to say that Tshisekedi, not Kabila, had won and appealed to supporters to fight for their victory.

"We call on the Congolese people to mobilise themselves so as to protect this victory," said Jacquemain Shabani, the secretary general of Tshisekedi's party.

The election was marred from the start by massive technical shortcomings, from the late delivery of ballots to the chaotic tabulation centres where ballots were being dumped by the millions.

There were not enough computers for poll workers to enter the data. Frequent power cuts plunged counting centres into darkness.

The election commission failed to meet its Tuesday deadline for releasing results. They announced a 48-hour extension, which has now turned into a 72-hour one.

Neighbourhoods empty

Kinshasa residents continued to cross the river separating Congo's capital from Brazzaville, the capital of the smaller Republic of Congo, Congo's northern neighbor.

Bobette Nzeuzi, a mother of two was among the people waiting to cross the river swirling with eddies. She held her 5-month-old daughter on her lap, while her 7-year-old sat next to her. At their feet were three hastily packed bags, a bottle of deodorant poking out of a pocket with a half-closed zippers.

"The city is in trouble. My entire neighbourhood has emptied out," she said as she waited for the boat to leave. "I wanted to leave earlier, but we had to wait for my husband to get paid."

Although international observers said the vote was flawed, they have stopped short of calling it fraudulent.

Most say the irregularities were not widespread enough to have caused a change in outcome. However, the perception among opposition supporters is that Tshisekedi won, setting the stage for a confrontation.

Diplomats, who have met the 78-year-old Tshisekedi in recent days in an attempt to convince him to not incite his supporters to violence, say that the candidate is convinced of his victory.

A Western diplomat who asked not to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media said: "There's a real disconnect. On the one hand he says, 'Obviously, I will respect the will of the ballot box - but I won'. "

Enormous geography ‘a challenge’

The impasse has led some analysts to say that the provisional results should not be published right away, and that instead steps need to be taken to create transparency in a badly muddled process.

For example, foreign embassies and international observation missions have impressed on election officials the need to publish results by polling station.

So far, the results issued by the electoral commission have been aggregated by province, making it impossible for political parties to check if the vote count they witness inside a specific polling place was correctly tabulated at the regional level.

"A week after presidential and legislative polls, the Democratic Republic of Congo faces a political crisis that could plunge it back into major violence," according to a statement from the International Crisis Group.

"To avert violence, Congolese authorities must take urgent measures to salvage a reasonably representative result out of a badly flawed process."

Congo's enormous geography has proved challenging both for the electoral commission organizing the vote as well as for the country's government. Its vast rain forests in the east still harbour vicious rebel armies, including remnants of the Interhamwe, the militia responsible for Rwanda's 1994 genocide.

  • thabemudzu - 2011-12-09 14:41

    the congolese have been cursed with minerals in their country. if only they had nothing for the west to want to exploit, they would be living in peace

      Paris - 2011-12-09 16:18

      You`re wright.but this time around.we gonna meet those crooks head-on.Be ready to take pictures of kabila roting in a meat fridge.

  • Rapha Kalala - 2011-12-09 16:40

    kabila hardly managed to draw a crowd of 20 000 people during his electoral campaign. How can he beat Tshisekedi in polls, who could draw an uncountable crowd to him by just lending in a city, the whole population gathered to supported him. where did kabila got his vote from?????? people did not vote. he knows that. that why he needs soldiers to secure him

  • olaosebikan.adeyemi - 2011-12-09 17:43

    im writing to the international community,i know you are the one who are behind kabila,please remember that congolese people don't have water,electricity,food.i know you are enough intelligents to create employment that can help congolese people to leave like normal human beings not like animals.please don't forget that.At the end of the day kabila is just a person compare to more than 55000000 congolese who are suffering inside like outside the country.

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