By a total of 49% of the vote, President Joseph Kabila has won out against his many, many opponents to claim another term as the leader of the DRC. His primary opponent, Etienne Tshisekedi, took 32% of the vote, but it looks like Tshisekedi may be declaring himself president anyway. Results may be out, but the elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are far from over.
The elections themselves were logistically frustrating beyond reason, leading to the assumption that legal challenges will be forthcoming. Fraud was under investigation from the minute the polls opened, with reports of falsified ballots and voters being turned away from their local polling stations. Suspicion is also directed towards the delay in the announcement, over three days later than originally promised.
The full extent of potential irregularities will be difficult to fully detect, as due to the size and chaotic nature of the elections, no one group was fully able to cover the country with monitors. The results still must be ratified by the Congolese Supreme Court, but nothing is indicating that an overturning is forthcoming.
Reporters on the ground indicate that there is a heavy police presence in the capital of Kinshasa already, strongly armed and with many in full riot gear. The threat of an explosion of violence has been a fear of observers for months, as rhetoric on both sides has escalated. In response to today’s announcement, the Tshisekedi’s spokesman has stated “It is a totally unacceptable result. You can just look around Kinshasa or the rest of the country to see how many people are against these results. The population is totally disoriented.”
Tshisekedi himself said of the results in an interview, translated from French, “I consider these statements as a provocation of the Congolese people…En conséquence, je me considère dès aujourd’hui, comme un président élu de la République démocratique du Congo. Accordingly, I consider myself now as an elected president of the Democratic Republic of Congo”. Laura Seay of Texas in Africa points attention towards the cities and regions of Kinshasa, Kananga, Mbuji-Mayi, and Lubumbashi as potential areas of flare-up by Tshisekedi supporters.
The United Nations has yet to issue a statement on the results announcement by CENI, the Congolese election commission. The UN has a strong presence in the DRC, with MONUSCO, the world’s largest peacekeeping force with over 19,800 military personnel on the ground, hosted within its borders. Over the past several weeks, MONUSCO has taken on a role more geared towards fostering the elections process. Now that voting is complete, MONUSCO and its Secretariat support at the Department of Peacekeeping Operations have to be ready to protect Congolese civilians as mandated by the United Nations Security Council.
Under the mandating resolution for MONUSCO, Resolution 1925, the primary functions of the mission are given under Operative Clause 12. The clause lists MONUSCO’s role in order of priority, an oddity for most peacekeeping missions:
12. Decides that MONUSCO shall have the following mandate in this order of priority:
Protection of civilians
(a) Ensure the effective protection of civilians, including humanitarian personnel and human rights defenders, under imminent threat of physical violence, in particular violence emanating from any of the parties engaged in the conflict;
The language used in the resolution is worth noting. Rather than violence emanating from armed rebels of the FARDC or any of the other factions in the DRC, forces in MONUSCO are authorized to use force against “any of the parties” in protection of civilians. It is the hope of all observers that all sides refrain from the use of violence to make their case before the Congolese people. Should that not be the case, though, MONUSCO must remember its rules of engagement, in that they are required to protect civilians from the imminent threat of physical violence no matter the perpetrator. 5.8 million Congolese cast their vote in support of Tshisekedi, 8.8 million in support of Kabila. All of them must be protected by the blue helmets.