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Published on December 12th, 2011 | by Lauren Beard
Image © [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="400" caption="Hundreds descend on Downing Street in Congo election protest © Tatenda Nyamande's photostream"][/caption] The results of the November elections in DR Congo were finally declared last Friday, as the incumbent candidate President Joseph Kabila was officially re-elected with 49 per cent of the vote. However, amid widespread claims questioning the credibility of the election, the leading opposition candidate, Etienne Tshisekedi, who was a distant second with 32 per cent, made a bold statement rejecting the results: “I consider these results a real provocation of the Congolese people. As a consequence, I consider myself, from today, the elected president of the Democratic Republic of Congo.” Fears of election rigging are not restricted to within DR Congo, as international observers have echoed this, including the US-based Carter Center. According to their report released over the weekend, there were “serious irregularities” in the electoral process, including the loss of ballots at many polling stations, suspicious turnout figures and the alteration of ballots. While Kabila has confirmed that mistakes were made, he disputes the extent of the Carter Center’s criticisms and rejects the accusations it makes. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged opposition supporters to remain calm and refrain from violence as the opposition announced plans to hold ‘peaceful’ protest marches throughout this week. How peaceful are such protests likely to be following Tshisekedi’s previous statements that a loss would mimic the Arab Spring revolts seen in northern Africa? In a country that almost equals the size of Western Europe, with a population in excess of 70 million, and with a long history of conflict, the consequences of such protests are likely to provoke unrest on such a scale that it could push DR Congo deeper into a humanitarian crisis. The streets of Kinshasa, the capital city which itself has a population of nearly 10 million, are lined with opposition supporters, reflecting the clear dissatisfaction among the Congolese people. A number of deaths have already been reported following violent clashes between the police and protesters in the capital, and the police have also been seen in unmarked cars rounding up supporters of Tshisekedi. The result has also sparked demonstrations in Europe as the Congolese diaspora took to the streets of London and Brussels this weekend in an attempt to highlight their refusal to accept Kabila's victory and to raise awareness of the human rights abuses committed against the Congolese people. While it was hoped that the first locally-organised presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo since the brutal conflict in 1998-2003 would pave the way for a new era of stability, the aftermath of the election results have blighted such hopes for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, foreign intervention (including increased UN presence and the continuation of peacekeeping missions, and a clear, strong statement of no toleration from the West and neighbouring countries), and international awareness through mainstream media channels are vital in order to prevent this political failure from transitioning into renewed conflict.

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Backlash in DR Congo as incumbent Kabila is re-elected

Hundreds descend on Downing Street in Congo election protest © Tatenda Nyamande's photostream

The results of the November elections in DR Congo were finally declared last Friday, as the incumbent candidate President Joseph Kabila was officially re-elected with 49 per cent of the vote. However, amid widespread claims questioning the credibility of the election, the leading opposition candidate, Etienne Tshisekedi, who was a distant second with 32 per cent, made a bold statement rejecting the results: “I consider these results a real provocation of the Congolese people. As a consequence, I consider myself, from today, the elected president of the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

Fears of election rigging are not restricted to within DR Congo, as international observers have echoed this, including the US-based Carter Center. According to their report released over the weekend, there were “serious irregularities” in the electoral process, including the loss of ballots at many polling stations, suspicious turnout figures and the alteration of ballots. While Kabila has confirmed that mistakes were made, he disputes the extent of the Carter Center’s criticisms and rejects the accusations it makes.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged opposition supporters to remain calm and refrain from violence as the opposition announced plans to hold ‘peaceful’ protest marches throughout this week. How peaceful are such protests likely to be following Tshisekedi’s previous statements that a loss would mimic the Arab Spring revolts seen in northern Africa? In a country that almost equals the size of Western Europe, with a population in excess of 70 million, and with a long history of conflict, the consequences of such protests are likely to provoke unrest on such a scale that it could push DR Congo deeper into a humanitarian crisis.

The streets of Kinshasa, the capital city which itself has a population of nearly 10 million, are lined with opposition supporters, reflecting the clear dissatisfaction among the Congolese people. A number of deaths have already been reported following violent clashes between the police and protesters in the capital, and the police have also been seen in unmarked cars rounding up supporters of Tshisekedi. The result has also sparked demonstrations in Europe as the Congolese diaspora took to the streets of London and Brussels this weekend in an attempt to highlight their refusal to accept Kabila’s victory and to raise awareness of the human rights abuses committed against the Congolese people.

While it was hoped that the first locally-organised presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo since the brutal conflict in 1998-2003 would pave the way for a new era of stability, the aftermath of the election results have blighted such hopes for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, foreign intervention (including increased UN presence and the continuation of peacekeeping missions, and a clear, strong statement of no toleration from the West and neighbouring countries), and international awareness through mainstream media channels are vital in order to prevent this political failure from transitioning into renewed conflict.

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