DRC election ‘winner’ promises pay hike for officials

By on 15/01/2019 | Updated on 24/09/2020
Congolese citizens wait in line to vote: the country may be about to experience its first peaceful transition, though the election’s legitimacy has been challenged (Image courtesy: MONUSCO/Sylvain Liechti).

The politician who’s claimed victory in last month’s Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) presidential election has promised to fight corruption, tackle poverty, and raise civil service salaries – fulfilling an abandoned promise by the outgoing government.

Felix Tshisekedi, the leader of the DRC’s Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDSP) – the country’s oldest opposition party – was declared the winner of the Congolese election by the electoral commission in the early hours of Thursday. If his victory stands, he’s likely to be confirmed by the constitutional court in the next 10 days, and to to assume office next month.

In a victory speech to thousands of cheering supporters outside his party headquarters, Tshisekedi promised to unite the country, oversee a return to constitutional government, return the rule of law, and work for peace across the vast nation. And he highlighted the need for a civil service pay hike, noting that officials went on strikes in 2017 when rising prices hit real wages: inflation rates reached over 50% in 2017-18, though they’ve since fallen since to around 10%.

Shady dealings

If the December 30 election results in a peaceful handover, it will be the DRC’s first democratic transfer of power since independence from Belgium in 1960. But opinions are divided on the election’s fairness, with one policy analyst telling Global Government Forum that incumbent president Joseph Kabila – who’s ruled since his father was assassinated in 2001 – colluded with Tshesekedi to fix the poll, denying victory to runner-up Martin Fayulu. The analyst, who asked not to be named, added that this is the first time the government has rigged an election to favour an opposition candidate.

Fayulu has described the result as an “electoral coup”, calling on his followers to resist “a grave attack on the country’s dignity”. The French government and the Catholic Church have also questioned the result’s authenticity, saying that the results do not reflect polling station data and that Fayulu is probably the rightful winner. And new research by the UK’s Financial Times has found evidence of a massive fraud; the newspaper says that Fayulu did indeed win the election.

But high hopes

However, Godber Tumushabe, a policy analyst and an associate director at Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies (GLiSS), told GGF that the election was free and fair. Tumushabe said that a democratic transition is likely to improve governance, promote development and curb corruption. Kabila has accumulated vast wealth whilst serving as president of the mineral-rich country, he added, but half of the DRC’s 80m people still live on less than a dollar a day.

“We anticipate the new president to reduce corruption, which currently costs country about US$15 billion each year,” he said in a telephone interview with Global Government Forum.

Yusufu Serunkuma, a Uganda-based political analyst, told GGF that the new president’s key priority should be ending the country’s civil war and restoring national democracy. DRC’s longstanding conflicts and civil unrest have spiked since 2016, when Kabila refused to leave office at the end of his term.

About Edgar Rwakenya

Edgar Rwakenya is a reporter based in Kenya whose work has been published both online and in print. He has over 12 years of extensive experience in business, finance, taxation, oil and gas reporting in Africa. He has been a reporter for bne IntelliNews, Haymarket Media Group’s SC Media UK, ConstructAfrica.com, Argus Media and Skye Media. He has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including Skye Media magazine and The Moodie Davitt Report. He graduated from the University of Dar es Salaam with a Bachelor of Mass Communication.

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