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Prof Ndebesa: DRC election exposes new innovation in rigging

Joseph Kabila

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Makerere University professor of history Mwambutsya Ndebesa has described the presidential election outcome in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as “a classic and new innovation in rigging elections in Africa”.

DR Congo’s National Electoral Commission (Ceni) this morning released provisional results of the much-delayed elections showing opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, with the French acronym UDPS, in the lead with seven million votes.

In second position is another opposition coalition candidate Martin Fayulu, who many opinion polls, pundits and the powerful Catholic Church had tipped to win, coming second with 6.4 million votes.

The ruling coalition candidate, Emmanuel Shadary, fronted by outgoing president Joseph Kabila is third with 4.4 million votes.

Already Fayulu has already dismissed the results as an “electoral coup”, while Tshisekedi’s supporters are in jubilation.

The DRC and Uganda, apart from sharing a long common border and ethnic links have commonalities in things like trade, politics, cross-border politics and much more.

Commenting on the DRC elections, Ndebesa says president Kabila on realizing that his protégé Shadary was unsellable decided to rig the elections in favour of Tshisekedi who is not only a weak candidate but one he can do business with.

Ndebesa says with most opinion polls and the Catholic Church favouring Fayulu, it is unlikely that Tshisekedi is the real winner, adding that the sudden change of fortune after prolonged delay in announcing the results smacks of foul play.

According to Ndebesa, as things stand he is pessimistic that peace and stability will return to the DRC because the majority of the people have been denied their preferred choice, pointing out that there is likely to be violence which does not augur well for democracy.

Ndebesa says a peaceful, stable and developing DRC is good for Uganda, but in the current scheme of things Uganda and the region should wait a little longer for it to reap any dividends.

Instead of being progressive, Ndebesa says Kabila has pulled off a first in Africa, by innovating a new way of rigging elections, a sad tactic that will be copied by many dictators on the continent.

The sub-county chairperson of Panyimur in Pakwach District and a keen watcher of developments in the DRC, Shaban Ofoy, says the win of Tshisekedi is very surprising to voters in the East because he was literally a no-show.

Ofoy says many Congolese along the border are scratching their heads about what befell their favourite Fayulu, but are also optimistic that perhaps a new and better era is on with the exit of Kabila.

According to Ofoy, a stable and peaceful DRC will have many spillover benefits for Uganda in terms of trade, travel and reduced pressure on social services like health and education.

Ofoy says improved infrastructure in the DRC, particularly roads, would significantly boost trade with Uganda, citing how it takes days for a trader to access markets in DRC’s hinterland.

Yunus Wo’Mata, a cross-border businessman based in Dei, a trading post on across to Mahagi Port, says many Congolese although disappointed that neither Fayulu nor Shadary won feel that Thisekedi could be a “compromise” leader.

According to Wo’Mata, had Fayulu won he would have faced stiff resistance from Shadary and Kabila supporters and the reverse would have been the same with Fayulu’s supporters had Shadary won.

Wo’Mata says if peace and stability returns to the DRC there would be a lot of benefits for Uganda, especially in trade.




  1. *Enduring Ideas, Ideology and Institutions: DRC should be supported to succeed*

    As veteran Ugandan journalist and writer Charles Onyango Obbo argued, not withstanding all the problems DRC has and sure to continue facing, its elections a couple of weeks back represents something that a number of countries in Africa, including my Uganda haven’t achieved – *leadership and possibly political transition* .

    There have been many criticisms and conspiracies aiming to largely discredit the elections in the DRC…

    The candidate expected to win because of opinion polls didn’t come top and so there must have been massive irregularities…give me a break. Opinion polls in most of Africa is pure mockery

    Ohh the candidate that won was propped up by the incumbent president Joseph Kabila, even if officially the incumbent’s designated choice came third – well give me another break please

    Ohh then, the president elect, a son of the late veteran politician Etienne Tshisekedi is a weak candidate, even duly endorsed by his late father’s party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDSP) – well have some respect for this party…

    And before I forget, we understand some important person or people in France are not happy with the outcomes of the election…hmmm, perhaps this is actually a good thing.

    For whatever problems the DRC has, we should give a benefit of doubt to the newly elected president . I would do the same for a new president who succeeds Museveni (after 33 years of bananas) although many will struggle with Museveni’s son or his wife for reasons many Ugandans best know.

    And for whatever weakness the new DRC president may have, what we need to focus on is what support he needs to succeed and build on the hard work of the founders of the UDSP.

    At the end of the day what will save Africa from its malaise are not mortal individuals like Kabila, Kagame, Bashir, Obiang or Museveni for that matter, but rather *enduring ideas, ideologies and institutions*. This is perhaps the lesson Ugandans should pick from DRC and ask in our case, whether NRM can outlive its current leader and perhaps more importantly, whether the NRM has any enduring positive ideology or idea.

    My two shillings take?.

    • Mario De Franceschi

      Very good comment, absolutely true!

    • I was wondering whether I was the only person who finds a lot of positives in the DRC elections. You have made my day. Whatever shortcomings that we have seen the positive side is that a peaceful transition has happened and let’s support Congo. The country has never seen anything like it…

    • The esteemed Prof’s piece is a classic in intellectual laziness or wilfull ignorance . He does not provide any evidence for his assertions besides opinion polls, nor does he inform his readers that even in the best case scenario, polls have a built in margin of error of 3-5% or more, depending on a number of variables. This regurgitation of non-evidence based views by a scholar represents the height of irresponsible punditry & cynicism. Indeed, the DRC has come a long way & its democracy (flawed as it is), is about to achieve a milestone hitherto unknown to the people of the Congo. There’s much cause to celebrate, warts & all!

  2. Agree with Wo’Mata, it doesn’t matter who won, the outcome would have been contested anyway. It is unclear how Prof Ndebesa has come to this conclusion beside what opinions polls were saying. We know that opinion polls are inherently flawed, hence the allowance of a margin of error (+- 3-5% or more depending on a number of variables) & often rigged in favour of certain preferred outcomes. Reaching such far- reaching conclusions without verifiable evidence by the esteemed Prof is intellectually lazy at best & highly irresponsible at worst.

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