AFRICANGLOBE – Belgiums’s high-stakes attempt to have the United Nations intervene in Congo’s election outcome and road-block Felix Tshisekedi fizzled when African countries stood firm to rebuff the former colonial oppressor.
In the 1960s Belgium undermined Patrice Lumumba’s government when it promoted Katanga’s secession under Moise Tshombe. The United Nations ostensibly was supposed to help Lumumba’s central government by quelling the civil war. It did nothing to curb the breakdown of the country. Lumumba was ultimately murdered by Belgian agents after Mobutu handed him over to Tshombe. Congo has yet to recover from that tragedy.
These thoughts must have been on the minds of leaders of several African nations when last week they saw Belgium and its ally France calling for the Security Council to debate the outcome of Congo’s election. Both European countries rejected the announcement by the country’s election commission CENI that Tshisekedi had won, with Martin Fayulu as runner-up. In the end, the Belgian scheme died after it became clear that its claim that the powerful Southern African Development Community (SADC) wanted a recount, was false. It seems Zambian President Edgar Lungu, who Chairs SADC’s Politics, Security and Defense Organ, was carrying the Belgian foreign minister’s jock strap when he initially went along with the project.
When the United Nations Security Council released a statement by Congo all the language that Belgium wanted in order to eventually trigger an intervetion had been removed.
Meanwhile, Gilbert Mundela, a Special Envoy to President-Elect Tshisekedi, in an interview said he is confident that his candidate will prevail in the Constitutional Court challenge by Fayulu who claims he is the rightful winner of the election. The court will likely rule on the challenge this week.
Mundela, who is expected to become a senior government official should Tshisekedi survive the court challenge, says a new administration will look to unleash Congo’s potential and turn the mineral-rich country into a breadbasket and engine of growth for the entire continent by supplying electricity to be harnessed from Inga Falls. He said Congolese and professionals throughout Africa will be welcomed to help build a new Congo. He said Congo wants a relationship of cooperation with both Rwanda and Uganda countries that have invaded, plundered and carried out massacres through the years.
Mundela said Tshisekedi’s victory amounts to a continuation of Congo’s liberation which was disrupted with the 1960 tragedy. “The liberation of Congo is truly a victory for Africa,” he said.
Mundela said the allegations that Tshisekedi had struck a deal with Kabila was part of a “vicious attempt” to diminish his victory at the polls.
Mundela said the country may also pattern a reconciliation system that borrows from other countries that also endured decades of repressive regimes such as South Africa and its Truth and Reconciliation Commission. There, after the collapse of the odious apartheid regime, victims and perpetrators of abuses gave public testimony. “We cannot forgive before people apologize for what they have done,” Mundela said, when asked about corrupt officials under Joseph Kabila’s regime.
Mundela said all the reporting and speculation about a Fayulu victory is based on a dubious polls that had him suddenly surging on the day before the election. He says the figure attributed to Fayulu on December 29 had been concocted much earlier and was meant to be released on December 22, one day before the original date slated for the election, December 23. He said the figures were known before they were released. The widely-cited poll is by New York University. In those polls, Fayulu had not broken above the 1% margin in six poll results released between February 2017 and July 2018. He polled 8% in October, 2018, while Tshisekedi was at 36%; other candidates accounted for the other figures. Then suddenly, by the time the December 29 figures were released Fayulu was at 47% and Tshisekedi’s numbers had plunged to 24%.
Mundela also dismissed Fayulu’s second implied claim to victory. The National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) claimed it had projected a winner based on information from 40,000 monitors it deployed around the country. CENCO, didn’t release any data but after CENI, the election commission, announced Tshisekedi as the winner the church group said its own projection didn’t match with those results.
Mundela said the church deployed monitors in only 22,000 polling stations out of nearly 80,000 stations. He said the monitors were not agents for any candidates and did not sign off on any tallies to verify figures. In any event, whatever estimate the church came out with was based on an estimated 13 million votes, whereas CENI’s was based on 18 million votes. Mundela questioned how media outlets such as The New York Times could report unverified information from the Catholic church, without its reporters even seeing any evidence or data. He said he found it ironic that the West denounced African countries for lack of professional journalism and yet a publication like the Times would publish a story which is not based on facts, undermining Tshisekedi’s victory.
Mundela said anyone who wanted evidence that Tshisekedi won the need only recall the mammoth sizes of his rallies, beginning with the huge crowds that welcomed his return to Kinshasa to begin his campaign.
He also recalled how Tshisekedi thanked Kenyan leaders Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga for inspiring him by their example of reconciliation. “It was a victory for Congo; it was a victory for Africa,” he said.
Mundela sharply denounced Belgium, the former colonial power and its foreign minister for quickly trying to delegitimize the election results once CENI declared that Tshisekedi had won. “They don’t want Congo to be free,” Mundela said.
The Belgian foreign minister Didier Reynders and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian both issued statements questioning the results announced and insisting that they didn’t match those arrived at by the Catholic church. Belgium then led the effort in the Security Council where Reynders claimed that African leaders, through SADC –the regional grouping comprises 16 Southern African countries, including South Africa– were insisting on a recount.
Reynders’ position was based on a statement by Zambia’s President Lungu, which provided cover. Reuters and most major white media outlets published stories claiming SADC leaders wanted a recount. The comments were reported as having come from Lungu, but attributed to SADC. None of the major white media outlets questioned why the statement wasn’t issued on SADC’s letterhead.
After South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa made it clear that Lungu spoke for himself, the Zambian had to issue another statement which amounted to an embarrassing retraction. The new statement was so rushed, because Lungu was under tremendous pressure to make an about-face, it includes a hand-written correction, which later so alarmed some diplomats on the Security Council that they had to double-check its authenticity.
The second statement, dated January 14, was issued by Zambia’s foreign minister Joseph Malanji on behalf of Lungu and sent to New York City Monday just in time. The Security Council was about to release a statement condemning the chaotic manner in which the Congo election had been conducted. The statement was also going to repeat the assertion by Lungu, falsely attributed to SADC, that African leaders wanted an election recount and a government of national unity. (One analyst found it odd, asking why there would be need for a recount if the end-goal was a unity government).
When Lungu’s retraction finally reached all the right people, including the South African ambassador –it involved a young Congolese official forwarding the document to several diplomats, or shuttling swiftly between them– the Security Council had no choice but to remove the bellicose language Reynders wanted when the statement was released this morning.
In the retraction signed by Malanji, Lungu said any SADC effort should be focused on “reaching a negotiated political settlement through dialogue and inclusiveness” and that an “inclusive Government” could be “the outcome of such negotiations.” Most importantly, the statement said “..any consideration for a recount or proposal on perceived electoral irregularities should be left to the sovereign internal procedures of DRC as may be provided for in the law of that country.”
Details also emerged about President Lungu’s efforts to derail Tshisekedi’s path to the presidency. Lungu first flew to South Africa to urge President Ramaphosa to support demands for a recount in the name of SADC. Ramaphosa refused and SADC issued a statement merely calling for CENI to release accurate results expeditiously. Lungu then went to his plan B, issuing his own statement which he attributed to SADC.
But South Africa and other African leaders stood firm at the Security Council. CENI flew officials from Kinshasa to testify and defend the results it announced. Meanwhile other members of the Security Council questioned why Belgium and France had not called for a similar meeting to discuss the elections in Cameroon when French-backed dictator of 36-years Paul Biya claimed to have won 71% of the vote in rigged elections or elections elsewhere in Africa. Lungu himself rejected any SADC involvement in Zambia when he too was accused of stealing the vote in 2016.
Russia and China, permanent members of the Security Council, also both opposed Belgium’s maneuver. Both said any intervention is a violation of Congo’s sovereignty; the issue was to be settled by Congo’s internal mechanisms.
By: Milton G. Allimadi