Congo urged to emulate SA’s erstwhile government of national unity

CAPE TOWN — Something less than kosher obviously marked the recent Congolese presidential elections, given that the country’s Catholic Bishops, the SA Development Community countries and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (12 central African countries), have all called for a recount. That’s some serious political clout – sufficient to put the spotlight squarely on the DRC’s Constitutional Court, which is being asked by the runner-up candidate to sanction a recount. The SADC’s call is a welcome change from its seemingly indifferent endorsement of previously disputed elections in the region. While GNU’s (Governments of National Unit) may seem an endangered species in Africa, the SADC cited such arrangements in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya as prime examples of negotiated settlements, urging the mineral-rich DRC to consider one rather than run the risk of descending into factional, debilitating politics. – Chris Bateman

By William Clowes

(Bloomberg) – Regional heads of state backed a call by Democratic Republic of Congo opposition leader Martin Fayulu for a recount of last month’s presidential election, as the country’s Constitutional Court prepared to consider his challenge against the result.

Opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi was declared the surprise winner of the Dec. 30 poll. If the Constitutional Court validates the electoral commission’s results, he’ll succeed outgoing head of state Joseph Kabila, who was barred from seeking a third term after leading the cobalt- and copper-rich country for almost 18 years.

The Southern African Development Community, a 16-nation bloc, and International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, which groups 12 countries, both said the electoral authority should review the vote because of disputes about the outcome. Fayulu claims the counting process was rigged, depriving him of victory.

SADC said a recount “would provide the necessary reassurance to both winners and losers,” according to a statement emailed by the Zambian presidency Sunday. The ICGLR echoed the call, issuing “a strong appeal to all political actors as well as civil society to prioritise the higher interests of the country at this crucial moment in history.”

Results released by the electoral commission last week show Fayulu finished second, while Kabila’s preferred successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, came a distant third. Kabila’s ruling coalition won a comfortable majority in Congo’s National Assembly, which will constrain Tshisekedi’s capacity to act independently.

Fayulu claims he easily secured the most votes and on Saturday petitioned the Constitutional Court to order the electoral commission to carry out another tally of the presidential and legislative polls. An influential organisation representing Congo’s Catholic bishops has also said the official presidential results don’t reflect the findings of its 40,000-strong observation mission.

SADC has previously been criticised for its observer missions’ endorsements of disputed elections in member states including Zimbabwe. The day of voting in Congo was “relatively well managed and the electoral process unfolded relatively well,” the bloc said in a preliminary assessment on Jan. 2.

While calling for a recount, the 16-member regional body also urged all Congolese political leaders “to pursue a negotiated political settlement for a government of national unity,” stating that such arrangements “were very successful in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya.”

Congo accounts for two-thirds of global production of cobalt, a metal used in rechargeable batteries needed by electric vehicles, and has deposits of gold, diamonds, tin and coltan, an ore that contains a metal used in mobile phones.