DRC election credibility
Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila on Monday conceded "mistakes" had been made in the recent election which returned him to power, but rejected criticism by monitors that the results lacked credibility.
Citing "impossibly high" turnout in Kabila strongholds and uncounted ballots in opposition bastions, the US-based Carter Center on Saturday cast doubt on the reliability of provisional results released last Friday.
But on Monday Kabila brushed off doubts cast by the observer mission established by former US President Jimmy Carter.
"The credibility of these elections cannot be put in doubt. Were there mistakes? Definitely, but (the Carter Center) has definitely gone far beyond what was expected," Kabila told a news conference in Kinshasa.
Veteran opposition challenger Etienne Tshisekedi called the results "a provocation" and said he considered himself Congo's new president.
Gunfire erupted in parts of Congo over the weekend and the opposition has announced plans for protests.
The European Union and the United States have urged calm as Congo waits for its Supreme Court to decide whether to validate results from the vote, Congo's second since the country's 1998-2003 war.
The vote was meant to move the country down a path towards greater stability after the war, which claimed over five million lives, but instead it has been was marked by violence and chaotic preparations in addition to the allegations of fraud.
Renowned for its violence and endless conflicts, the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo has been remarkably quiet since the results of the presidential elections were announced last Friday.
By Mélanie Gouby, Goma
While the Congolese capital of Kinshasa has been shaken by the DRC elections in which tyres were set ablaze and rumours of abduction, murder and the arrest of opposition members spread across the city. Goma, in eastern Congo has remained almost indifferent to the re-election of Joseph Kabila, who has been in power since 2003.
On Friday evening, following the announcement of the election results, only a few hundred Kabila supporters came out onto the city’s main avenue to celebrate the victory of their candidate with the sound of vuvuzelas.
“Kabila is our president, the president of the people. It’s a great day for Congo”, shouts Arnel, who is proudly wearing his blue t-shirt with the campaign slogan of Joseph Kabila: “na Raïs 100% sûr” which means “100% with the president”.
The only case of violence took place in the evening when supporters of the ruling party and those of the opposition started a stone throwing fight. But the crowd was quickly and quietly dispersed by the police and the heavy rains which followed soon drove everyone home.
Things have since returned to normal in the dusty streets of Goma, although some opposition voters are still bitter.
“Kabila is a thief, he stole our votes”, says 20-year-old Charles, who is a Law student. “I am disgusted, is this democracy? We voted smart. I voted for Tshisekedi to ensure that we have change”, he adds.
One of his friends explains that he had voted for another opposition candidate, Vital Kamerhe.
“I wish I hadn’t made that mistake, I should have voted for Tshisekedi to prevent Kabila from being re-elected”, he says.
But they are all convinced that the elections were rigged and that they were robbed of their victory.
Since the announcement of the results – 49% of the votes for Kabila and 32% for Tshisekedi – rumours of election fraud started to spread. The Carter Centre, which employed observers during the elections, estimates that 3000 to 4000 ballot papers from voting stations across the country failed to be included in the final result. The voter turnout rate was also “incredibly high” in some localities, at almost 100% in some areas.
The unusually high turnout rate coincides with the areas where Kabila received a very high percentage of votes. Yet, the main opposition candidate, Etienne Tshisekedi, has refused to appeal the result at the Supreme Court, as he doesn't consider the court to be fully independent. Instead, he called on his supporters to remain calm and “united in the face of upcoming events”.
In a speech delivered on Monday, Joseph Kabila admitted that there had been some “errors” in the electoral process but rejected the conclusion of the Carter Centre, which claimed that the results lacked credibility.
He specifically cited his mediocre scores in Northern and Southern Kivu, where he was re-elected with more than 95% of the vote in the second round of the 2006 presidential elections, as proof of the credibility of the polls.
Although the response to the elections by the people of Goma has been relatively passive, the population is well aware of the reality on the ground. As Moïse, a retailer in the city centre puts it: “I voted for Kabila, I am one of the few people to have done so here. But I figured that he wouldn’t leave office, even if he had lost the elections. So why bother voting for someone else?”.