Despite pressure from international stakeholders, including the South African Development Community, the constitutional court of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has denied a recount of last month’s presidential election. This move settles Tshisekedi as the new and 5th president-elect of the DRC, defeating pre-election poll leader Fayulu.
What was once hoped to be the first peaceful transition of power in the DRC in over half a century, the presidential election has been far from calm. Marked by voting disruption on election day itself, the announcement of opposition candidate Tshisekedi as winner came as a shock to both citizens of the DRC and global observers. Fayulu, long believed to be the certain winner, was among those challenging the results, alleging that Tshisekedi had made backroom deals with the outgoing President Kabila to ensure victory. Fayulu appealed to the constitutional court for a vote recount on grounds of electoral fraud, and called for the international community to reject the poll results. “I ask the entire international community not to recognize a power that has neither legitimacy nor legal standing to represent the Congolese people,” he said.
Many believe that the constitutional court has a long-standing role backing Kabila’s power, so the decision to deny a recount and uphold Tshisekedi’s win is little surprise. The opposition candidate has described this decision as “nothing more than a constitutional coup as (the court) installs a non-elected individual to the highest office” and has only confirmed that “[the constitutional court] is at the service of one individual and of a dictatorial regime that doesn’t respect the laws of the republic nor the most elementary rules of democracy and moral”. Leaked internal data from the electoral commission and the Catholic Church (the Guardian) suggests that Fayulu won last month’s poll with around 60% of votes.
In a break from its long tradition of backing governments in power, the influential African Union says it has “serious doubts” about the election results. In a statement, the AU said, “the heads of state and government attending the meeting concluded that there were serious doubts on the conformity of the provisional results as proclaimed by the National Independent Electoral Commission, with the verdict of the ballot boxes”.
Fayulu has taken to heart support from the international community, urging the Congolese people to “take its destiny in its hands by organizing peaceful demonstrations across the country”. In a statement responding to the constitutional court’s ruling, Fayulu declared that, “I am now considering myself as the sole legitimate President of the Democratic Republic of Congo. As such, I ask the Congolese people not to recognize any individual who would claim this authority illegitimately nor to obey any orders that would emanate from such a person”.
Despite the growing and sporadic unrest across the DRC, with 34 deaths, 59 injuries, and 241 “arbitrary arrests” (UNHCR) since the original announcement of his win, Tshisekedi has welcomed the court’s decision, declaring it a victory for the entire country. “It is Congo that won. It is not the victory of one camp against another. I am engaged in a campaign to reconcile all Congolese … The Congo that we are going to form will not be a Congo of division, hatred or tribalism. It will be a reconciled Congo, a strong Congo that will be focused on development, peace and security”.