Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Catastrophe in Congo must stop at election

  • Print

ONCE again a poorly run election in a volatile African country threatens an explosion of bloodshed. The setting this time is particularly concerning: Congo, a country nearly the size of Western Europe, with a population of more than 70 million -- and a history of civil war that killed millions between 1997 and 2002.

An election Nov. 28 pitted the incumbent president, Joseph Kabila, against a 78-year-old populist icon, Etienne Tshisekedi. Poor organization, violence and attempts at manipulation made both the vote and the subsequent count a mess.

On Friday, Mr. Kabila was declared the winner, but Mr. Tshisekedi refused to accept the result, and some of his supporters clashed with security forces in the capital, Kinshasa. Though an uneasy calm is prevailing, Congo's neighbours, the United Nations and outside parties such as the United States will have to keep working to prevent a crisis.

Residents of Kinshasa, a city of 10 million, have been bracing for trouble ever since preliminary returns showed Mr. Kabila with a wide lead in what was expected to be a close contest. Final results gave the president 49 per cent, to 32 per cent for Mr. Tshisekedi in a field of 11 candidates. Observers from the Carter Center said that the official results "lack credibility," reporting that there was improbably high turnout in areas where Mr. Kabila is strong and that thousands of polling stations in Kinshasa, an opposition stronghold, had not been counted. Mr. Tshisekedi has been claiming he won since Election Day.

One way to defuse the standoff is for outside powers to insist on greater transparency. Congolese law requires that vote totals be reported from each of some 60,000 polling stations, which would allow them to be checked against the tallies of observers at the stations. A full report that matches observer counts and confirms a victory by Mr. Kabila could put pressure on Mr. Tshisekedi to refrain from mobilizing street rallies. The Obama administration and the European Union appropriately have been pushing for "accurate and timely publication of vote counts by polling station," as a State Department statement put it.

Mr. Tshisekedi had promised that his followers' reaction to a loss would mimic the Arab Spring revolts in northern Africa. More likely, the result of taking to the streets would be a bloody contest like those that followed disputed elections in Kenya and Ivory Coast. At worst, Congo's multi-sided, transcontinental war could reignite. The United Nations, which has 19,000 troops in Congo, should be prepared to act quickly to prevent a broader conflict, while western governments and Congo's neighbours should make clear to Mr. Kabila that excesses by his security forces will not be tolerated. Congo's election is already a political failure; the challenge now is to prevent it from triggering a humanitarian catastrophe.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 13, 2011 A13

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Bowman talks "job number one" in News Café interview

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Bright sunflowers lift their heads toward the south east skies in a  large sunflower field on Hwy 206 and #1 Thursday Standup photo. July 31,  2012 (Ruth Bonneville/Winnipeg Free Press)
  • A monarch butterfly looks for nectar in Mexican sunflowers at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Monday afternoon-Monarch butterflys start their annual migration usually in late August with the first sign of frost- Standup photo– August 22, 2011   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should Premier Greg Selinger resign?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google