The Democratic Republic of Congo held elections on December 30th that would mark the country’s first peaceful transfer of power since its independence in 1960. The long serving ruler Joseph Kabilla had effectively delayed these elections for years but after much international and domestic pressure, he promised to step down and cede power to the winner of these elections.
Votes were cast. Ballots were counted. A winner declared–and according to several reports a massive fraud was perpetrated.
The Catholic Church, which served as independent election monitors, said that the declared results do not match their data. And on January 15th the Financial Times obtained the raw data from electronic voting machines, which demonstrated a wide margin of victory for opposition candidate Martin Fayulu.
On the line with me to discuss what appears to be industrial scale election fraud in the DRC is Ida Sawyer. She is the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Africa division and a longtime observer of politics in the DRC.
In this conversation she explains who the main candidates are; why this election is so significant, and what it means that such a fraud was perpetrated.
Over the next several weeks and perhaps months this election related drama will unfold in the DRC. This conversation gives you the context you need to understand and interpret events as they unfold.
Ida Sawyer is deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Africa division. She was previously the organization’s Central Africa director, overseeing work on the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Central African Republic. From 2008 to 2016, she was based in Congo with Human Rights Watch, first in Goma and later in the capital, Kinshasa. She conducted research across Congo and in areas of neighboring countries affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army, and her research has been integral to numerous Human Rights Watch reports.
In August 2016, Congolese authorities barred Ida from continuing to work in the country, following a series of Human Rights Watch publications on political repression. Ida has authored numerous Human Rights Watch reports and other documents, and she has written for publications including TheNew York Times, The Washington Post, and Foreign Policy. Ida conducts high level advocacy with African officials and other international actors as well as outreach with national human rights groups.
Ida came to Human Rights Watch from Cairo, where she had worked as a freelance journalist. Her previous experience in Africa’s Great Lakes region includes work for Care International and the Charity for Peace Foundation in northern Uganda, as well as research in Congo on the cross-border dynamics of natural resource exploitation. Ida holds a Masters in international affairs, specializing in human rights, from Columbia University.