DRC: “The parallel with the end of Mobutu is quite remarkable”

DRC: “The parallel with the end of Mobutu is quite remarkable”

For Professor Kabamba, the coming months will be decisive for the country.

Bob Kabamba, professor of political science at the University of Liège (ULg) is a privileged witness to the latest elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Present in Kinshasa, he closely followed the entire course of the elections in a country that he knows well and that he has studied for more than 30 years.

His view on the conduct of the election is uncompromising. “There was no election”.

What is the outcome of this election?

I will refer to the conclusions of the Cenco bishops who speak about elections that were characterized by fraud, large-scale corruption, privatization of voting machines, etc. Everything was manipulated by the president of the Independent National Electoral Commission Denis Kazadi, without there being the slightest sanction. Everything happened in total opacity. The electoral law was constantly violated by the CENI. It’s a charade. The CENI extended the vote for 7 days without worrying about the law. Imagine, and the Ceni recognizes this, that we completely ignore where exactly between 11,000 and 13,000 voting machines were located. This represents a potential of 7 million votes. With a fairly low participation rate (40% Editor’s note) out of a total of 44 million, this already provides a very good basis for the candidate who benefits from this system.

How can we explain the general acceptance of this fraud?

One word: realpolitik. Everyone is ready to settle for the minimum so that the Democratic Republic of Congo does not implode. Many observers know that there has been cheating but they accept it if there is no commotion.

Why this lack of reaction?

The system put in place by the Ceni did not allow the opposition, taken by surprise, to organize itself. The opacity in which the entire fraudulent system operated made it impossible to react. For example, the vote was continuing and the Ceni was already giving partial results obtained electronically, without compiling the ballot papers. No one saw this level of cheating coming.

What is the future of institutional opposition?

Spontaneously, I would say zero. The opposition, based on the results available today for the national legislative election, would represent 6% of the deputies. Which means that it should not even have the right to a parliamentary group, it will not have access to a whole series of tools which should authorize democratic play and allow a certain level of control to be carried out. It is a parliament totally won over by the presidential majority, it will only be a sounding board for the president.

A boulevard for another type of opposition?

Quite. Non-institutional opposition risks being much more vocal. I am thinking, politically, of Joseph Kabila who refused to enter into this truncated process. If he decides to speak, we will be obliged to listen to him. By his attitude, given the progress of this election, he has offered himself an exhibition space that must be looked at carefully.

Apart from this non-institutional political opposition, there is also the more muscular opposition, I am thinking here, in particular of the movement of Corneille Nangaa in the east of the country. We see that it continues to unite armed groups and social movements. Tomorrow, he could very well recover regional political leaders who were left behind by electoral fraud. These people often have a real popular base. If they do not find themselves in the montages of Tshisekedi’s majority, the temptation will be strong to join a movement like that of Nangaa.

What can Tshisekedi do?

He must find a response to the security crisis in the East but also in Bandundu. We see that he is mobilizing a lot of resources for the moment on the eastern border. He understood that it was a race against time. If he fails to calm things down in the east, he will allow Nangaa to settle in and he will continue to unite. The parallel of Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s AFDL is quite remarkable. Kabila was able to count on the discontent born from the rejection of Mobutu. Those unhappy with Tshisekedi’s little arrangements are today at least as numerous, within the Congolese borders but also outside, and Nangaa’s movement is more Congolese than Kabila’s AFDL. There is also the very ethnic nature of Tshisekedi’s power which could fuel resentment and strengthen protest. The attitude which consisted of turning a blind eye to the electoral theft if the protest was not immediate is a dangerous bet and a very short-term calculation.

What do you think of this article?