kabila elections fraudAlthough the presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been widely contested, incumbent President Joseph Kabila was sworn in on Tuesday after he claimed to have won the Nov. 28 election in this sub-Saharan African nation. His main opposition candidate, 79-year-old Etienne Tshisekedi, the leader of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), will also be sworn in as president at a mass rally by the people in Kinshasa this week.

One election—two very different outcomes.

Although the election has been criticized by international observers, Kabila has promised to unify the country. Yet the army deployed tanks in the streets of Kinshasa prior to Kabila’s swearing-in ceremony out of fear of mass protests.

Kabila went ahead with his speech anyway, telling those gathered he was president of all Congolese and promising to create more jobs in the next five years, according to the Associated Press (AP).  “I want to reassure here all those whom I did not persuade to vote for me. I invite them to believe in my determination to truly be the guarantor of the Congolese nation in all its diversity,” he said.

Despite Kabila’s reassurances, organizations including the International Crisis Group, Enough and the Open Society Foundations urged the government to delay the inauguration, since the vote was “marred by widespread irregularities.”

The election results showed Kabila with 49% of the vote and Tshisekedi with 32% of the almost 19 million votes that were cast.

On Dec.14, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that, based on observations by the teams fielded by the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa, “we believe that the management and technical execution of these elections were seriously flawed, lacked transparency and did not measure up to the democratic gains we have seen in recent African elections. It is not clear, however, whether the irregularities were sufficient to change the outcome of the election.” Those views were shared by other diplomatic missions and organizations such as The Carter Center.

Nuland encouraged the Congolese authorities to closely review the irregularities and proceed with “maximum openness and transparency,” and for all Congolese political leaders and their supporters to “act responsibly, renounce violence, and resolve any disagreements through peaceful constructive dialogue and existing legal remedies.”


(Photo © Finbarr O'Reilly/ Reuters)