Monday, November 27, 2006

Supreme Court Makes it Official

To no one's surprise, the Congolese supreme court ruled that the charges of vote fraud brought by Jean Pierre Bemba and the Union for the Nation were "without foundation." The court basically ratified the results presented to them by the Electoral Commission and declared Joseph Kabila president.

The capitol, Kinshasa was calm with most of the businesses closed. The coming days will be revealing as to how the Court's ruling will be accepted. Bemba's lawyers had walked out of the court over the weekend after the tribunal rejected their request to reopen the debate over the election result.

There is little doubt that a political crisis will ensue. In fact, this may be the best that one can hope for. A political crisis is far preferable to violent conflict. With Bemba winning almost 7 out of 10 votes in the Capitol, Kinshasa and winning six of the eleven provinces it is almost certain that Kabila will encounter difficulties governing, unless of course he makes broad ovetures to the opposition, which is very unlikely.

The fact that Kabila won the five provinces with almost 100 percent of the votes and a turnout rate 20 percentage points higher than the six provinces that Bemba won has left a sour taste in the mouths of the anti-Kabila camp. One key element to follow in the wake of the elections is the almost certain radicalization of the anti-Kabila camp. This camp often says that it fought against Mobutu and disliked his regime but they hold a personal, visceral hatred for Kabila whom they believe has been imposed on them by the International community.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Bemba Files With Supreme Court

On Saturday, November 18, 2006 Jean Pierre Bemba filed his case with the Supreme Court and formally contested the results of the October 29th elections where Kabila won 58 percent of the votes and Bemba 42 percent. The central points of contention are a disputed 1.5 million votes of people allowed to cast ballots at stations other than where they registered poll workers.

The provisional results have to be formalized by November 30, 2006. The Supreme Court may annul all or part of the vote if recognized irregularities may have had a decisive influence on the outcome of the poll.

Although almost all international observers have signed off on the results a breakdown of the numbers does warrant some questions. Kabila won 5 of the 11 provinces and in the provinces that he won, he averaged 94 percent of the votes and the turnout was 20 percentage points higher than the provinces that voted in favor of Bemba.

Some observers question how it is that in five provinces almost 100 percent of the people voted for Kabila and at the same time those people were more motivated to turn out to vote with a 76 percent turnout rate, 11 percentage points higher than the national average and 20 percentage points higher than the areas in which Bemba came out on top.

Earlier today the Supreme Court attempted to start reviewing Bemba's case, however, violence broke out and shooting occurred outside the Court. The Court was set afire and the judges and civilians had to evacuate. The Supreme Court has eight days to rule on Bemba's filings.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Kabila Wins, Bemba Disputes

Joseph Kabila was declared president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo by the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) with 58 percent of the votes to Bemba's 42 percent. Bemba claims that the elections were stolen from the people and is contesting the results in the courts. The Supreme Court has until the 30th of November to announce the official results. The new president will be sworn in on December 10, 2006 and serve a five-year term.

Click here to view beakdown of voting results!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Catholic Church Cries Foul

Cardinal Frédéric Etsou, Archbishop of Kinshasa claimed that just as in the first round of the votes, the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) has fixed the votes in favor of Joseph Kabila. Cardinal Etsou made the claim in an interview with Radio France Internationale.

The Cardinal called upon the international community to cease its attempts to impose a leader on the Congo. Etsou's statements are of particular significance considering that the Catholic church was one of the key organizers of the elections and has consistently called for fair, free and transparent elections. The president of the CEI, Apollinaire Malumalu rejected the claims of fraud and cheating. However, Etsou says he has proof that Bemba won the elections but the results were fixed to keep Kabila in power.

Apparently, the church has documentation to demonstrate that the elections are being fixed in favor of Kabila. Should we get access to these documents, we will make them available.

Our sources on the ground have shared with us that the both the United Nations and European troops have begun to disarm Bemba's militia while leaving Kabila's security forces untouched. Both the church representatives and Bemba's coalition araccusingng the international community of trying to impose a leader on the people of the Congo by force if necessary.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Kabila On The Verge of Victory but Bemba's Coalition and the Catholic Church Cry Foul

Kabila appears to be heading to victory in the presidential runoff with almost 95 percent of the votes counted, Kabila maintains a 60% to 40% lead over his rival Jean Pierre Bemba.

Bemba's Coalition, the Union for the Nation has rejected the results that have been issued by the Electoral Commission. Bemba has characterized the results as a product of systemic fraud and an attempt by the international community to steal the elections from the Congolese people. These sentiments have been echoed by Congo's top Roman Catholic cleric, Cardinal Frederic Etsou, who charged that the results being published do not reflect the actual votes cast by the people.

It is clear that there is a political crisis in the making. Even if Kabila wins, which is highly likely. It would be shocking to see the Electoral Commission accept or agree with any of the claims of fraud made by Bemba. The question of legitimacy which has dogged this process from the outset, is still very much the central issue to be resolved. The international community has not fully grasped the fact that the overriding issue is the legitimacy of whatever government is put in place and not the holding of elections. The holding of elections that results in an illegitimate government in the eyes of the Congolese is doomed for failure and the Congolese population will bear the brunt of the consequences.

Monday, November 13, 2006

90 Percent of Partial Results Reported: One Million Votes Being Contested

The Independent Electoral Commission (CEI in French) reported that Joseph Kabila has 60 percent of the votes while Jean Pierre Bemba has 40 percent with 90 percent of the votes counted. The turnout rate thus far is 66 percent.

The CEI has reiterated that the results are not final and they are reviewing complaints of fraud submitted by Bemba's coalition. Apparently 1 million votes are in question (Click here to see report).

The situation is still tense in Kinshasa, however the fighting that broke out on Saturday and claimed four lives has ceased. It is critical for the CEI to verify the results to the satisfaction of both candidates. This would go a long way to avoiding further conflict and bolstering the legitimacy of the winner.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Kabila Strengthens Lead, Opposition Cries Fraud, Political Crisis Looms

With 65 percent of the vote counted Kabila leads Bemba in the quest for the presidency. Kabila has 60.67 percent of the vote and Bemba 39.33 percent with 112 of the country's 169 constituencies published by the Independent Electoral Commission. Turnout thus far is 67 percent.

Bemba's party and supporters have cried fraud. They maintain that based on the results that they collected at the polling stations there is no way that Kabila garnered the number of votes that is being reported by the CEI. Bemba's camp has already begun challenging the results. Those supporting Bemba are convinced that the international community will attempt to impose Kabila on the Congolese population at any cost. According to our sources in Kinshasa, it is widely believed that the votes in the east where Kabila gets overwhelming support are "cooked." Our sources clearly indicate that the center and west of the Congo will not accept the imposition of Kabila. Should this be true, the scope of the crisis facing Congo in the post vote count period may not solely be that of violent conflict between Kabila's and Bemba's forces but also a political crisis whereby the population will not see Kabila as their legitimate leader.

The dimension of what is transpiring in the Congo that most observers have yet to fully grasp is the political crisis that may take front stage. Most observers are focused on potential violent clashes between Kabila's and Bemba's security forces but the biggest challenge for Kabila and the international community maybe the flat rejection of a Kabila government by people in the center and west of the country, especially Kinshasa. As one of our sources note, the West is not aware of how Kabila is vehemently hated by the bulk of the Congolese population and will not submit to his leadership.

This morning some fighting broke out in Kinshasa, we will provide updates regularly to keep you abreast of not only what is appearing in the news but also provide dispatches and insights from the ground that may not be captured by reporters.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

CEI Releases More Results - Kabila and Bemba Meet Behind Closed Doors

The Independent Electoral Commission (CEI in French) released more results today. The latest results has Kabila still in the lead with 69.68 percent of the votes and Bemba with 30.32 based on 11.2 percent of the ballots counted. Although only 11 percent of the results have been released, the CEI has tabulated 71 percent of the votes thus far. The turnout remains lower than the first round at approximately 65 percent. It is still too early to tell who will win. All indications are that the final results will be close.

The CEI has taken extra precaution in releasing the results by allowing both candidates to verify the numbers before they are released. Both Kabila and Bemba have their own system of tabulation in place. Thus far there are no major disputes in the numbers that have been released by the CEI.

Also, today Kabila and Bemba met behind closed doors. Neither candidate commented on the meeting that took place at the presidential palace. Both men smiled and shook hands in front of the media (Click here to view footage (FRENCH). Both men have been under enormous pressure from other African leaders and the international community to make sure that the fighting that occurred after the announcement of the first round results in August does not occur this time. Later on Tuesday, they released a joint statement which called on "the whole population to remain calm, to respect the institutions and the laws of the republic and to refrain from acts of provocation or violence".

One interesting note about the meeting is that it occurred without the knowledge of Bemba's coalition the Union for the Nation. The members of the Union for the Nation were quite angry that such a meeting took place without any notice from Bemba. A meeting of the Union National scheduled for Wednesday morning was cancelled.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Partial Results Released

In an effort to break the tension in the Congo and cut down on the rumors about election results, the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI in French) began releasing partial results today. With 12 of 169 constituencies published, Joseph Kabila has 68.5 percent of the vote and Jean-Pierre Bemba, 31.5%. The early results come primarily from the east where Kabila receives the bulk of his support.

Click here to view published results by the CEI

Friends of the Congo of course does not subscribe to the so-called Swahili- Lingala divide in the Congo. With over 250 ethnic groups who are Bantu speaking such characterizations are facile proclamations by western media. Kabila's support in the East of the country is a result of his presiding over a peace process that brought about an official end (1,000 people are still dying each day because of conflict in the east) to the war that resulted in over 4 million Congolese dead. People in the east of the Congo are not voting for Kabila because he speaks Swahili, such analyses are reductionist and do a disservice to the complex political landscape that is the Congo.

Although less than one percent of the votes were released today, the CEI has counted over 60 percent of the votes and will publish new results each day. Stay tuned for more results.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Turn Out Lower Than First Round: Results Expected to be Close

Many observers and analysts have indicated that the turn out for the October 29th run-off elections was lower than the first round. Although, provincial elections took place on the same day, that did not boost the turn out to the levels of the first round. The lower turn out may be due to the fact that for the most part, the Congolese were not enamored with the two candidates. In fact, Congolese say choosing between Bemba and Kabila is tantamount to choosing between the plague and cholera or cancer and AIDS.

The Congolese people once again demonstrated the stark difference that exists between them and the leaders they had to choose from to be president. The dignified and peaceful manner in which the Congolese voted once again shows that the Congolese are a peace loving people who are unfortunately held hostage by renegade, violent leaders. Unfortunately, the hands of these violent leaders were strengthened by the manner in which the international community financed an electoral process that sidelined the democratic and grassroots forces in the country. The international community invested almost a half billion dollars in the election process.

The announcement of the final results is not expected until November 19, 2006. Bemba and Kabila signed an agreement stating that they will respect the results and not resort to violence to contest any disputes that may arise. They are expected to meet in public once the results are announced.