Development and Peace, L’Entraide missionnaire inc. and Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers) Press Release

Hopes for Democracy in the DRC Must be Respected!

December 20, 2011
Montreal/Ottawa

Conditions surrounding the November 28 elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the irregularities that tarnished them have discredited the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) and the entire electoral process. The presidential election1 results were confirmed by the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) on December 17 although the many charges of fraud advanced by political parties and national and international observer groups were not analyzed. This situation can only fuel distrust of the legitimacy of the new head of state elected in the vote.
 
Development and Peace and the Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers) each sent a delegation of election observers, one to the province of Kinshasa and one to Katanga. These observers, who accompanied their local partners2 and split up into various different polling stations in different cities3, witnessed how determined Congolese citizens were to do their duty and choose their next leaders. In an attempt to defend their democratic rights, the population objected, sometimes violently, to what they perceived as the illegal actions of election officials, candidates and local authorities.

The considerable confusion on voting day discouraged many voters from the outset and increased opportunities for fraud. A sizeable portion of the population felt that they had been robbed of their right to vote. Furthermore, the lack of transparency and the disorganization that marked the following days, when the results were compiled, increased doubts about their accuracy. Given the absence or shortcomings of mechanisms intended to safeguard each stage of the process (presence of witnesses and observers, secure storage of documents, simultaneous transmission of the official documents to the authorities in charge), we can only conclude that it will be impossible to validate the aggregated totals without independent verification of the results at all levels and without a vote being held in all ridings where no voting took place or where the voting documents have been lost. It will probably be impossible to confirm the claims of victory made by the two main candidates based on valid information and using a transparent process. And if nothing is done to identify and correct the organizational shortcomings and condemn the possible cases of fraud, the results of the legislative election, which took place at the same time, may also be cast into doubt.

The haste with which these presidential and legislative elections were held reflects the last of a long series of decisions which gave rise to the current risky political climate of uncertainty. For instance, given the highly political makeup of the INEC; the fact that the Constitution was amended without any public debate4; the President’s appointment, a few weeks before the vote, of 18 additional judges to rule on any complaints, and the breach of several sections of the Election Act during preparations for the vote and while it was taking place5, this election ended up being one of the most costly ever held on the African Continent. These are also some of the factors that have resulted in the current crisis, for all the opposition parties and a portion of the population have rejected the legitimacy of the election.

Unlike the first election in 2006, the richest countries in the international community, as well as the United Nations6maintained a distance from these elections, which were mainly funded by the DRC government. As a last resort, numerous African countries provided logistical support. As for the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), its mandate too was reduced to providing the electoral organization with logistical support. However, it did continue to document human rights violations during this time. In fact MONUSCO produced a report denouncing 188 cases of human rights violations related to the electoral process, ranging from the assassination of civilians to violation of the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

The international community’s attitude to the doubtful results of this first round of elections seems divided and shaky. On the one hand, regional African organizations invited to observe the election and most presidents of neighbouring countries rapidly accepted the election of Joseph Kabila. On the other hand, Western countries involved in the area in different capacities7 , including Canada, have demanded the implementation of legal steps to provide the necessary transparency to ensure the legitimacy of the results. These differences absolutely must not serve as a pretext to deprive the Congolese of their fundamental right to elect their leaders

Given the foreseeable risk of violence and the current political crisis in the DRC, we demand that that Government of Canada coordinate measures with all countries involved to:

-    call upon the Congolese State and the main political players to abstain from violence and refrain from encouraging violence as a means to resolve this deadlock;
-    insist that the Congolese State take the necessary corrective action to address the INEC’s inadequate organization of the vote;
-    ensure that the allegations of electoral fraud are analyzed impartially;
-    immediately involve itself in the compilation of the results of the legislative vote to ensure its legitimacy.

  1. The results show Joseph Kabila as the winner with 48.9% of the votes, ahead of Étienne Tshisekedi, who received 32.33%.
  2. Quakers in Kinshasa, Commission nationale justice et paix du Congo.
  3. Kinshasa, Likasi, Lubumbashi and Kasenga.
  4. January 25, 2011: The presidential election was reduced to one round. The 2006 Constitution provided for two rounds.
  5. Specifically involving the preparation of and posting of the voters’ lists.
  6. 25 janvier 2011 : réduction à un tour de l’élection présidentielle prévue à deux tours dans la Constitution de 2006.
  7. Au niveau de la confection de la liste des électeurs et de son affichage notamment.
  8. Among other things, the UN sent 2,250 election observers in 2006. In 2011 it sent none.
  9. Notably by promoting investment in natural resources. Many contracts with these Western companies have been contested or are currently under scrutiny for their lack of transparency: http://ericjoycemp.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/deal-summary-5-5m-loss-to-congolese-people-through-questionable-mining-deals.pdf.

For further information:
Serge Blais – Development and Peace:  514-257-8711
Denis Tougas – L’Entraide missionnaire: 514-270-6089
Gianne Broughton – Canadian Friends Service Committee: (available by e-mail while on holiday: gianne@quakerservice.ca)