J'accuse: long-serving president accused for further delaying upcoming elections in Congo

Kabila Congo2By Tonny Onyulo

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of the Congo – As this troubled country prepares for general elections on December 23, many fear election violence following a recent attack on an opposition leader that left three people dead.

“We are afraid. Police are everywhere,” said Martin Ngoyi, a taxi driver. “They are arresting and shooting anyone that opposes the government’s candidate. We can’t vote in such environment. We need help.”
Last week, three people died in Lubumbashi in the country’s southeast during a campaign rally featuring leading opposition presidential candidate Martin Fayulu. Security forces sprayed Fayulu’s convoy with tear gas and live ammunition, reportedly killing three and seriously injuring hundreds of others.
“The government doesn’t want any opposition leader to campaign,” said Fayulu. “They shot at us and my convoy. We cannot campaign.  Why is the government afraid?”
The violence has raised questions about the credibility of the vote and President Joseph Kabila’s intentions. Technically, Kabila’s term ended in December 2016. But he remained in power, citing the country’s instability. He has since tapped his former interior minister, Emmanuel Shadary, as his successor while officials in his government have taken steps to prevent rivals from challenging Shadary.
In August, election officials barred former Bemba, a former vice president, and Katumbi from running. Bemba faces war crimes charges at the International Criminal Court, while Katumbi was blocked from entering the country to register as a candidate. Both now support Fayulu.
A total of 20 opposition candidates are also running. They all question if Kabila is really going to give up power.
Kabila, 47, took control of the country in 2001, ten days after the assassination of his father, President Laurent-Désiré Kabila, who had overthrown dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997. Voters elected the younger Kabila as president in 2006. In 2011, he was re-elected to a second term.
Peter Wafula Wekesa, a political scientist at Kenyatta University in Kenya, said the outgoing President Kabila would do everything in his power to support Shadary in order to retain his grip on government.
“I think Kabila’s decision to step aside won’t change anything in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s power dynamics,” he said. “Kabila is going to continue ruling his country but behind the scenes. They are very close with Shadary and nothing is going to change.”
Opposition candidates have especially questioned the credibility of electronic voting machines which are being used for the first time in the country. The South Korean-made technology features a touch screen where voters can pick their preferred candidate.
“The system is perfect and it will prevent fraud and also provide a faster tally of votes across various parts of the country,” said Jean-Pierre Kalamba, who oversees the Independent National Electoral Commission. “There’s nothing to worry about. The system has also cut costs and it’s effective.”
Opposition leaders disagree.
“Kabila and his government want to manipulate the machine and fix the vote in favor of their preferred candidate,” said Fayulu. “We are not going to allow this to happen. I know I’m headed for victory because I have people’s support.”
According to a recent poll, 36 percent of voters support opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi, the son of a veteran opposition leader. Vital Kamerhe came in second with 17 percent. Shadary garnered 16 percent. Fayulu had 8 percent. The country’s constitution states that whoever gets the highest number of votes wins.
Shadary insists on claiming that he is the frontrunner.
“I know I’m winning. Ask me by what margin,” he said. “When you look around you can see by yourself that we have massive support across the country. We are campaigning and we’ll continue.”
Wakesa cast doubt on those assertions but noted that his confidence might reflect his knowledge of how Kabila is working behind the scenes on his behalf. 
“Shadary is not well known around the country and elsewhere,” Wakesa said. “He has no support and he lacks finances to campaign. But the government is going to step in with all its mechanisms to ensure he wins the elections. There is no way any other candidate can win this election with the African style of politics.”
Tshisekedi is the candidate to beat if the contest is free and fair, said Wakesa. His father ran against Kabila in 2011, but lost after he won only 32 percent to the incumbent’s 42 percent. He unsuccessfully challenged the election results in court, but the attempt advanced his image as a fighter. The elder Tshisekedi died last year.
On Tuesday, the UN Security Council urged all parties to reject violence and engage peacefully and constructively in the electoral process to ensure transparent, peaceful and credible elections.
"While welcoming the progress in the technical preparation of the polls, the members of the Security Council are worried” about violence marring the final days the electoral campaign, a U.N. statement said.
The Security Council asked all sides "to continue to reject violence of any kind, exercise maximum restraint in their actions and ... refrain from provocations such as violence and violent speeches and to address their differences peacefully," the statement added.
Ngoyi, a taxi driver, agreed.
“We want a conducive environment before the vote takes place,’ said Ngoyi. “We also want police to restrain from intimidating supporters of opposition candidates. We want a free and fair poll.” 

Photo: President Joseph Kabila during an inter-institutional meeting on October 19, 2018, at the Cité de l'Union Africaine
Credit: Courtesy of the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo Official Twitter page 10/19/2018 
Story/photo publish date: 12/20/18
A version of this story was published in The Washington Times.

<div class="article_intro_wrap"><img src="/images/FRA14231aa001.jpg" width="179" height="129" style="border: 1px solid #000000; float: left;" />PARIS — A bloody day in the heart of the City of Light left some of France’s best-known journalists dead and police tracking down the native Islamist terrorists suspected of carrying out the murders to avenge what they said were insults to the founder of their faith. One suspect surrendered and two others were missing.

<p>The well-coordinated early-morning attack on the editorial offices of the Charlie Hebdo targeted the editor of the bitingly satiric weekly, Stephane Charbonnier, nine colleagues and a security guard, all murdered in cold blood by masked assailants who reportedly called out the names of their victims as they were shot.<br /><a href="/http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jan/7/terror-assault-at-paris-newspaper-leaves-12-dead/" style="font-size: 11px;"><span style="color: #3366ff;"><strong><br />Read more at The Washington Times</strong></span></a>

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