As Kinshasa heads toward a crisis, donors prevaricate

The election commission has published their first and second days of preliminary results, and has said they will be announced the results of their compilation every day. The results elicited a lot of controversy, especially because they compilation is taking place unevenly across the country. According to the results, which comprise 33% of polling stations, Kabila has around 51%, Tshisekedi 34% and Kamerhe 5%. But there is a huge difference in the number of stations counted between the different provinces – in Kinshasa, only 3,33% have been counted, while in Bas-Congo the figure is 67,85%.

While many have complained that the figures could hardly be correct – some can’t understand that Kabila is far ahead of Kamerhe in South Kivu, others protest that he can’t have 90% of the vote in Katanga – other allegations of impropriety have come forward.

The election commissioner Mulunda Ngoy has decreed that all packages that are not in order should be invalidated, which has led the election commission to invalidate results 130 polling stations in the Kinshasa I circonscription (Lukunga) alone, around 5% of all votes there, and 30 stations in Kinshasa II. The opposition (and some diplomats) claim that Mulunda does not have the legal authority to do this, and argues that the government is invalidating votes in opposition strongholds.

Other reports have come in suggesting that the chain of custody of votes has been broken in many places, with in some cases election candidates transporting votes from polling stations to compilation centers.

In the meantime, the Security Council has met in a closed session on the Congolese elections. According to people familiar with details of the meeting, the Council is deeply divided, with some western powers expressing concern (Germany and France, in particular), and Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa backing the Congolese government’s version.  However, even the western powers say they don’t know whether fraud was widespread enough to qualify for terms like “systematic” or “large-scale.” In general, the Council wants to keep UN involvement limited, trying to avoid the role of arbiter, while at the same time they are worried about violence next week.

In general, the priority of Council members does not seem to be to push for accurate results, in part because they think they will never be able to get them, and also because even accurate results would, in their eyes, not bring peace. In any case, the Council is too divided to take any ambitious stance.

In general, it is almost impossible to imagine a scenario in which definitive results are announced and all sides accept them. It is almost certain that there will be some degree of violence – although it is unclear how much and how it will play out – during the coming week. But, in the words of one UN official I spoke with in Kinshasa, “the donors seem to be almost entirely oblivious of this.” The French ambassador was the only permanent representative who attended the Council’s meeting, all other officials were lower-ranking. The attention of the big embassies seems to be focused on Syria and Egypt.