FLASHPOINT AFRICA: Election Fallout in Congo, Ivory Coast
CONGO: Here We Go Again
The recent presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo may be pushing that vast Central African nation into a new phase of violence. The top two candidates in a field of 11 contenders are each claiming they won.
The incumbent president, Joseph Kabila, claimed electoral victory in the Nov. 28 vote and on Friday (Dec. 17), the Central African nation’s Supreme Court upheld that claim – despite reports of numerous irregularities at the polls and in the vote-tallying across the vast country.
But second-place finisher, Etienne Tshisekedi, rejected the high court’s findings, proclaiming himself the winner. The 79-year-old Tshisekedi is calling on the DRC’s security forces and civil servants to ignore Kabila’s orders.
The elections were the first organized by the DRC government since the end of a bloody civil war in 2003 — and only the third vote that could be described as “democratic” since the country gained independence from Belgium in 1960.
Both Belgium and France have criticized the vote as highly flawed as has the U.S.-based Carter Center which sent observers. But regional leaders in Africa accepted the outcome and urged opposition parties in the DRC to do the same. The DRC is the second-largest country in Africa (after Algeria), the fourth most populous (after Nigeria, Ethiopia and Egypt) and holds vast mineral wealth in gold, diamonds, cobalt, copper and oil.
Kabila is set to be inaugurated tomorrow (Tuesday). Tshisekedi plans to take the oath of office Friday (Dec. 23.) Observers fear the political standoff could lead to violence – even civil war – as it did in Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire) earlier this year. (see next below)
IVORY COAST: Ex-President in the Dock
While things appear to be returning to normal in the West African nation of Ivory Coast following months of political stalemate and bloodshed following a contested presidential election, there are still reports of political violence.
At least six people were killed in the western part of the country over the weekend in clashes between armed youth and security forces.
Such clashes with former rebels-turned-government forces have been on the increase since the end of the civil war that left more than 3,000 people dead following last year’s election crisis.
Then incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down following a failed re-election bid in November 2010 poll. Forces loyal to the election winner, Alassane Ouattara, rebelled. With the help of French and U.N. troops, they captured Gbagbo in his forified compound. Ivory Coast, also known as Cote d’Ivoire, is a former French colony and French troops are stationed there.
Earlier this month, was spirited out of the country and now awaits trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity. Meanwhile, Ouattara’s political party won parliamentary elections which Gbagbo’s party boycotted. Ouattara has vowed to unite the country, once the strongest economy in in West Africa and one of the world’s leading cocoa producers. But he has been criticized for not prosecuting violence committed by his supporters during the rebellion.