For about 22 years, there has been a father and son presidential rule in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
This has finally come to an end as an opposition figure, Felix Tshisekedi, has been announced as the surprise winner of the December 30 presidential election in the central African country.
The result, that has come as a shock to many observers, was announced early Thursday and was rejected by the rival leader, Martin Faluyu, who was backed by many opposition groups and had led in polling ahead of the election.
According to the electoral body, Tshisekedi won with 38.57 per cent of more than 18 million ballots cast – more than seven million votes compared with Fayulu’s 6.4 million
Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, who was the government’s preferred candidate, came third with about 4.4 million votes.
The governing party has, so far, accepted the results of the election, raising suspicions by many after reports that Tshisekedi’s team had held talks with that of incumbent leader, President Joseph Kabila. Tshisekedi’s outfit has since denied such claims.
Though there are pockets of celebrations on the streets of Kinshasa, the capital of DR Congo, observers, including the Catholic Church are still shocked over the development after they had predicted a victory for Fayulu.
France has also complained about the figures, saying that it was not consistent with those collected on the grounds by monitors from the Catholic Church.
Meanwhile, the UN chief, Antonio Guterres, has pleaded for calm in the country, and has urged all parties to “refrain from violence” and “to channel any electoral disputes through the established institutional mechanisms.”
Kabila, who took over from his father in 2001, prepares to step down and usher in the first electoral transfer of power in 59 years of independence in the DRC.
If confirmed, Tshisekedi will be the first opposition challenger to win since the country gained independence in 1960.
Who is Felix Tshisekedi?
The 55-year-old is the president of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress(UDPS), the largest opposition party in DRC. The party was founded by his father, Etienne Tshisekedi, who died in Brussels aged 84 in 2017.
Tshisekedi subsequently took over the leadership of the party. The political figure, with a diploma in marketing and communication, joined six other opposition leaders on November 11 to back a single unity candidate, Martin Fayulu, to challenge Shadary.
This did not go down well with the leadership of Tshisekedi’s party. Subsequently, Tshisekedi and his ally, Vital Kamerhe, pulled out of the deal. They ran on a joint ticket – a move that divided the opposition. Tshisekedi has said he would select Kamerhe as his prime minister if he wins the vote.
He has since vowed to be the president “of all Congolese” in the midst of tensions arising out of the election results.
After more than two years of delay, millions of voters in the Democratic Republic of Congo on December 30 went to the polls to choose a successor to the long-serving president, Kabila.
The DRC had not had a peaceful transition since independence and has faced civil strife intermittently since then.
Aside from political turmoil, the country is also grappling with a series of Ebola outbreaks, with the most recent considered the worst for the country.
Kabila took office in 2001 after the death of his father President Laurent-Desire Kabila. He was supposed to leave office in December 2016 after the end of his second and final term, but elections were postponed over lack of resources to conduct a free, fair and credible poll.
The country descended into chaos after his refusal to step down. In August, he announced that he will not run for a third term and later chose Emmanuel Shadary, a former interior minister as his successor.
Ahead of the election, protests were held in several areas across the country. Authorities also postponed the December 23 election date to December 30 after a fire in the capital, Kinshasa that destroyed election materials. There were also deadly protests in cities such as Beni and Butembo after authorities announced that voting in those two cities would be postponed until March 2019 because of the threat of the deadly Ebola virus.
In all, 21 candidates competed for the country’s top position. Tshisekedi would have to deal with issues of corruption, impunity and inequality that has seen the resource-rich country ranked 156 out of 176 by Transparency International in 2016.