A long history of misrule has made the Democratic Republic of Congo one of the world’s poorest and most dangerous countries. The Congolese people had reason for optimism this summer when President Joseph Kabila agreed to step down. This makes the hijinks surrounding Sunday’s election particularly dispiriting. This was only the fourth multiparty election since independence in 1960, and it is the central African nation’s best chance at a peaceful transfer of power. After delaying elections for years, in August Mr. Kabila agreed to abide by the constitution and forgo another presidential run. That left his chosen successor, Emmanuel Shadary, to face off against some 20 candidates. The opposition largely coalesced around Martin Fayulu and Felix Tshisekedi, and Mr. Shadary trailed in polls.
It’s hardly been a fair contest. The government used an Ebola outbreak as a pretext to bar voting in opposition strongholds, and security forces broke up opposition rallies. Thousands of voting machines were destroyed in a fire last month. Millions of the DRC’s 46 million registered voters were unable to cast a ballot.
Both sides have claimed victory, though it’s unlikely Mr. Shadary pulled off a legitimate win. The government has since shut down SMS, the internet, and some radio services. It claims this was meant to stop the spread of fake news. Pardon Congolese who suspect this is a fake excuse for disrupting nongovernment communications ahead of the release of preliminary results on Jan. 6.
This may end up being another democratic opportunity lost. Home to some 85 million people, a DRC that is more stable and prosperous would be a boon to Africa and the global economy. In addition to vast timber, copper and gold reserves, the country produces more than half the world’s cobalt, a key component of smartphone and laptop batteries. Conversely, migrants increasingly are willing and able to flee Africa’s failing states, creating a human tide that stresses neighbors and Europe.
Full Article: The Congo’s Crooked Contest – WSJ.