Etienne Tshisekedi is convinced he won his country’s presidential vote. Like his many supporters, he even thinks he is president. He is wrong of course but who can blame him?
Observers may have reported that they found evidence of possible vote tampering, vote inflation in regions of the country favourable to the incumbent President Joseph Kabila, and instances of vote suppression in areas known to be bastions of support for the opposition – but that is as far as it gets.
No one can say they were surprised by the Congo Electoral Commission announcement last week that incumbent President Joseph Kabila had won the election. Not even Tshisekedi supporters. For a while they knew this was coming. They cried foul, demanded that there be a transparent election, impartial electoral commission and monitors to ensure that the incumbent does not “steal the election”. All to no avail.
So as expected, when the results finally came out, Daniel Ngoy-Mulunda of the Electoral Commission made it known to the world that president Kabila (with a small p) with 48.9 percent of the vote had emerged winner with “President Tshisekedi” (with a capital P) at 32 percent coming second. It was official and it probably will remain so.
In most democratic countries, such a close poll would have been reason to celebrate. Who gets such close election results unless the country’s electoral process is democratic and the major institutions functional. But DRC is only democratic simply in name. The people who should have been celebrating their countries incredible democratic moment (no poll has been more close in Africa) were instead organising to take to the streets protesting what they saw as a “massive stitch up”.
That someone who barely got 50 percent of the total vote should go on to rule the country is another issue and perhaps one I should leave for another day. Most constitutions in Africa are written in such a way that when it comes to national elections and choosing who to become president, the winner must get over 50 percent of the vote or there will be a re-run. Not in DRC. DRC is a special case and like I said I will leave this very issue for another day.
But why am I going into all this? You see on Thursday last week (Dec 8th) I stumbled upon an online story on Igihe (an online publication based in Kigali) that some suspected arsonists (read protesters) had attacked and tried to burn down the Rwandan embassy in Paris. After the incident, a statement signed by Ambassador Jacques Kabale, was reportedly issued asking Rwandans living around the town where the embassy is located to stay calm, and give a deaf ear to rumors about Presidential elections of DR Congo which is suspected to be the cause of the attack.
It seemed to me that this was an odd thing for the Congolese to do (if indeed they were the ones who had attacked the Rwandan embassy in Paris).
Then on Sunday (Dec 11th) I woke up to news that Scotland Yard had made 139 arrests following a demonstration in central London over the election result in the Democratic Republic of Congo. What? In the Paris story, the suspicion was that the attackers or the arsonists if you may, were unhappy with the way Rwanda continues to interfere in the politics of their country. Now I do not represent the government of Rwanda and even if I did I am no Louise Mushikiwabo (she is good at what she does) but if I had an issue with my neighbour or if my neighbour was constantly poking his finger into my face, torching his embassy in a foreign country is the last thing I would want to do. And this is irrespective of the provisions of the Vienna Convention.
But let us be clear here. It would be unfair to blame the Congolese opposition for the incident in Paris (if it even ever happened given that it only was picked up by igihe.come). While it is possible that some disgruntled elements within the Congolese diaspora were responsible for the Paris incident and intended it as a way of showing their disgruntlement against what they see as a frivolous foreign policy by Rwanda, it helps their cause not.
That alongside the events in London yesterday where Congolese protesters having turned up in numbers to exercise their fundamental right began to damage property, including cars and shops, as well as threatening members of the public has if anything, done more harm than good to their cause.
I sat down for a coffee with a good friend of mine (who is English and considers himself well connected to the Lib Dems) and throughout our conversation, he just could not understand why the Congolese would dare do such in London. “I don’t know what you think but I have always had this feeling that the Congolese are a disorganised lot. I mean just loo at the amount of resources these guys have got but still their country has lacked any sense of direction”, he said to me.
I think they have lost it is what I said to him. The Congolese have lost it. You do not seek sympathy through destruction. Yes DRC has had its fair share of problems, foreign interventions and the race for minerals notwithstanding but there seems to be a general lack of initiative among the Congolese to find home grown solutions to their problems. The idea of blaming others for all their ills has got to stop. This is not easy of course given the amount of exploitation that goes on in the Congo and also the fact that everyone appears to want a bit of Congo. But surely, there has to be a way of expressing their concern (and especially outside DRC) in ways that are civil and ways which will not further alienate those involved casting them as hopeless crazy people.
But who knows? In a country that has been plagued by war crimes committed by foreign forces, excessive mineral looting and more than 6 million deaths, and all these at the silent watch of the powers that be, perhaps acting crazy is not such a gruesome idea – after all? Can it really honestly be said that the Congolese are losing it or have they been pushed to breaking point?
Over to you my little monsters…