Buhari in the shadows of DRC polls

Sunday January 27 2019

Supporters of Nigerian opposition presidential

Supporters of Nigerian opposition presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party Atiku Abubakar hold his portrait during a campaign rally at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna on Thursday ahead of Nigeria’s general elections of February 16. PHOTO | AFP  

By Ciugu Mwagiru ciugumwagiru@yahoo.co.uk

Nairobi. Amid a frantic presidential poll campaign in Nigeria, Felix Tshisekedi was finally sworn in as the new president of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The installation took place after a convoluted electoral season replete with uncertainties, and came even as runner-up Martin Fayulu called on the international community to reject the results.

Fayulu, who has previously described the outcome as an “electoral coup” forged by Tshisekedi and incumbent long-term president Joseph Kabila, declared himself as “the only legitimate president”.

He further called on the international community not to recognise what he described as “a power that has neither legitimacy nor legal standing to represent the Congolese people.”

The new developments in DR-Congo were unfolding at a time when the fierce campaign for the Nigerian presidential election slated for February 16 was picking up pace.

The latest development in the race for the presidency took place this week when Oby Ezekwesili – the main female candidate – quit the presidential race, leaving two frontrunners to battle it out.

Viewed as a credible challenger for the two top male contenders in the race, Ms Ezekwesili is a two-time minister and former World Bank vice-president for Africa, and was from the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN).

In recent times she was in the limelight as the co-founder of a global campaign organised to raise awareness about the more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the Boko Haram armed group in 2014.

When announcing her departure from the presidential race, Ms Ezekwesili said she was quitting in order to create a “strong and viable” coalition to defeat incumbent Muhammadu Buhari’s ruling All Progressive Congress(APC).

Her throwing in of the towel left Buhari and former vice-president Atiku Abubakar as the main contenders in the presidential election slated for February 16.

Still, amid the build-up in what seems to be shaping up as a battle royale for the country’s leadership, analysts say the formation of a coalition against the main parties is unlikely to change Nigeria’s political landscape.

Tellingly, the two major parties are the ruling APC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which between them have won the country’s presidential elections since the restoration of democratic rule in 1999.

Back to the DR-Congo, Tshisekedi’s inauguration came even as the outgoing African Union chairman, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, embarked on a futile attempt to influence events in the long-troubled country.

Having been behind the installation of the late President Laurent Desiré Kabila, the father of the country’s incumbent president, Kagame apparently thought he could actually have a hand in DR-Congo’s new political dispensation.

Having attended a summit in Addis Ababa on Thursday last week, President Kagame was expected to land in Kinshasa lat Monday accompanied by AU Commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat.

The planned visit was however not particularly welcomed by the DRC authorities, who also did not accept AU calls for the postponement of the announcement of the final poll results.

In fact the call was thwarted when the results were announced overnight last Sunday, pre-empting any attempts by Kagame and the AU to influence DR-Congo politics following the December 23 presidential poll.

Even as the preliminary results of the poll were being reviewed by the country’s Supreme Court, AU involvement in the DR-Congo post-poll crisis was roundly criticised by the authorities in the perennially unstable country.

Arguing that any disputes relating to the results should be left to the court, the DR-Congo authorities had warned against any interference with an ongoing judicial process.

Ironically, though, the court’s independence had already been questioned by some actors in the poll, whose preliminary results saw opposition candidate Tshisekedi declared winner.

According to the country’s Independent National Election Commission (Ceni) Mr Tshisekedi, 55, garnered 38.57 percent of the vote while main rival Fayulu, 62, came second with 34.8 percent.

Coming a distant third with 23.8 percent of the ballots cast was 58-year-old Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, said to be incumbent President Joseph Kabila’s preferred successor.

The AU plea for postponement of the final results came days after the preliminary ones were openly queried by countries like France.

While reportedly describing the declared results as “not consistent with the true results”, the country argued that the DRC’s Catholic Church had reached the same conclusion.

The Church had however refrained from publishing the name of the candidate who was in its view the true victor.

As for Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French foreign minister, he pulled no punches when he said that “on the face of it, Mr Fayulu was the leader coming out of these elections.”

However matters pan out in the country, though, after a 17-year presidency incumbent Kabila has tellingly said he may run again in 2023.

Ciugu Mwagiru writes for Daily Nation