Congo’s supreme court has upheld President Joseph Kabila’s victory following a contested election, raising fears of more violence in sub-Saharan Africa’s largest nation because the main opposition candidate has already rejected the results. The November election was only the second democratic vote in Congo’s 51-year history, and the first to be organised by the Congolese government rather than by the international community. Observers have expressed concern about irregularities, saying voter turnout results were impossibly high in some districts.
Kabila, Congo’s incumbent president, faced 10 candidates, including Etienne Tshisekedi, a 79-year-old longtime opposition leader who is enormously popular with the country’s impoverished masses. Observers fear unrest if Tshisekedi orders his supporters to take to the streets. So far, Tshisekedi has called for calm, telling his supporters to await his instructions.
Another opposition candidate, Vital Kamerhe, appealed to Congo’s supreme court to annul the presidential vote, but the court said late on Friday that his complaint was groundless and lacked sufficient evidence. The decision was announced by Justice Jerome Kitoko, the court’s vice president.
Kabila first came to power after his father’s assassination and has now led the massive, mineral-rich central African nation for a decade. Results released one week ago showed he had 49% of the vote, and Tshisekedi had 32% of the nearly 19m votes cast.
Just 24 hours after those results were published, US observers from the Atlanta-based Carter Center – founded by former president Jimmy Carter – issued a statement saying the vote lacked credibility.
David Pottie, one of the senior observers with the Carter Center, said it was impossible to have 100% voter turnout in a region where less than 2% of the roads are paved, and equally improbable for all the votes to go to Kabila, when there were 11 candidates on the ballot.