Painting by Cheri Samba

Lokuta eyaka na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier mpe ekomi. Lies come up in the elevator; the truth takes the stairs but gets here eventually. - Koffi Olomide

Ésthetique eboma vélo. Aesthetics will kill a bicycle. - Felix Wazekwa

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The day(s) after: Reflection on elections

Elections have passed throughout most of the Congo - voters are now suspended in a weird limbo of several weeks as they wait for election results to be announced. Sitting in bars and living rooms, people in Bukavu send and receive dozens of text messages a day regarding the results seen outside voting offices and compilation centers - "Vital is ahead in 8 out of 32 centers in Goma!" "Tshisekedi takes a surprising lead in Beni territory!"

I won't delve into too much speculation about the result yet. It is too early to do so; results just began trickling into the central compilation centers in Kinshasa yesterday. It looks like Tshisekedi did well, and that the race will be close, but beyond scattered results here and there, there is more speculation than anything else.

So how did the voting go? The election was Janus-faced. On one hand, it was peaceful in most of the country, with what appeared to be relatively high turnout. I would wager than in 70-80% of polling stations, the elections went fairly well, even in many parts of Kinshasa. People I spoke with in Bukavu - and echoed by what my colleagues heard elsewhere in the country - were enthusiastic and highly motivated. I saw women queuing for hours in the sun with their infants, old men who had hobbled on their canes for miles to come to voting stations. Moving stuff.

The other face of the elections was ugly. There were hundreds of cases of election irregularities, many of which could have probably been avoided through more meticulous preparation. The most frequent irregularities, which have been covered extensively in the press, are the following:
  • Many voters could not find their names on the polling stations, due to flaws in the electoral lists and misunderstandings about where they should vote. Although the election commission announced repeatedly that people could vote anywhere in their electoral district with a valid ID card, many voters were sent home or sent from station to station. This probably disenfranchised tens of thousands of voters (out of 30 million);
  • There were many dozens accusations of ballot-stuffing across the country. Some of these incidents can be explained by misunderstandings as ballots ran out and new ballots had to be dispatched, leading some to think these ballots were for stuffing. In other cases, however, there seems to be little doubt that there was rigging, as marked ballots were found before polling began, in many cases outside of the chain of custody of the polling commission. In other cases, stuffing happened in front of witnesses. The arrival of 10 tons of ballots from South Africa in Lubumbashi and Kinshasa, which were then unloaded by military police, one day after elections had closed in most of the country did not help matter. It is unclear how many votes these kinds of irregularities might concern;
  • Frustrated voters attacked polling stations in many parts of the country, burning down dozens of stations in Kasai Occidental alone (reported 143 were either forced to close or burned down there). The frustrations stemmed from accusations of ballot-stuffing, long delays and incomplete lists. Some estimates suggest than hundreds of thousands of people were not able to vote, but it is very difficult to pin numbers to these allegations for now;
  • In some areas, security forces interfered in the electoral process. In Kinshasa, the army took over security for polling stations from the police in some areas, while in Masisi (North Kivu) ex-CNDP soldiers reportedly forced thousands of voters to vote for their candidates. There were also reports of witnesses of political parties being chased out of polling stations by soldiers or police;
Given these irregularities, the question is: what next? Four presidential candidates - Kamerhe, Kengo, Mbusa and Bombole - are asking for elections to be canceled, but both the main opposition candidate Etienne Tshisekedi and the incumbent Joseph Kabila have said they will respect the results. Some foreign observations missions made statements today, outlining the above irregularities but not making any broader judgments.

The reason that Tshisekedi and Kabila are going ahead with the process is clear: They both think they can win. Obviously, there will only be one president. So one will lose. What will his reaction be? Neither side appears ready to step down without a fight. Key questions for the coming days will be: Did political parties and civil society observers have enough people on the ground to carry out an independent tallying of votes? Will the compilation process - which is already fairly chaotic - be transparent? If Tshisekedi loses, how many people can he mobilize in the streets for how long? If Kabila loses, will he admit defeat or simulate a crisis to prevent a handover of power? In case of a crisis, what position will the army and police take?


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this, Jason.

Two questions:

Is it your thinking that the observer missions- all of them-will have their reports before or after the results are announced? I think when they release is pretty critical here so if you have some idea of that please share.

Do you know if ALL the missions are witnessing the tabulation process? In particular, is the SADC and any AU team observing tabulations? I believe that's pretty key as well.

Also, I've become good friends of late with Jean-Pierre Kimbuya, the Secretary General of the DRC's secular teacher's union (SEIU, through the ILO, will be conduct an organizing training for them and other major unions in the Congo for a full 6 months next spring which I will head) and Jean is pretty adamant the vote was fraudelent as our a good deal of his counterparts in other major civil society groups. They have apparently gathered their own reports and will share them with the Carter Center, AU, and SADC missions. Obviously, this is anecdotal knowledge on my end but if this perception is pretty deep among a good chunk of civil society leaders we have a fairly big problem.

National Organizing Director
Washington, DC.

Anonymous said...

in case of a crisis what position will the international community take?

Anand said...

Jason, your analysis sums up my feelings about the election perfectly. On the one hand I do acknowledge and applaud the many successes of the election. Helpful CENI workers, many, many people's ease in voting, and the "moving stuff" you mentioned. These are all grand achievements. But when you view the other side of the coin, what do you end up with? Even though the problems are not overwhelming when viewed individually; collectively they seem substantial. Over a hundred burned or shut down voting stations + pre filled ballots + intimidation tactics + people killed (I won't put a deceptively small number on this that belies the seriousness of anyone being killed in elections) + ballot stuffing + tens of thousands of disenfranchised voters + 4 major candidates who want the election annulled + 2 leading candidates whose perspectives will possibly shift depending on the results...what does all that equal? I can't say "largey successful elections", but I can't say "failed elections either." It's sort of an Apollo 13 scenario. The mission went well on the one hand: good launch, triumph of technology, overall successful spaceflight. But on the other hand: compounding technical problems, tense waiting game, and loss of the ultimate mission of moon landing. The hopeful ending is that the crew got home safely, and calm and cool heads prevailed. I think this is what I am left hoping for in Congo, whatever the results maybe turn out to be.

ciprian said...

According to Congolese News Agency, Tshisekedi said to be ready to accept the results even if these were unfavourable to him. Of course, these are only words, but let's hope the best.

Anonymous said...

European Union short term observers are reportedly packing up and heading to Kinshasa days ahead of schedule.

Gabriello Princip said...

Vital just stated that he's withdrawn his demand for the election to be cancelled.

Christophe Ethuin said...

Thanks for this update, Jason. It appears a bit more cautious and conservative than my comment of yesterday ( but as you are closer to the ground I very much deem your analysis. Would be great to have your critique of my attempt, if you have some spare time to look at it.
Many greetings,

Mbika said...


I read your comment and would like to provide the following remarks (which I previously made in the rubric that you just took out; it is your blog, so you make the decision to keep or to discard any document).

1. I said that the race won't be close, and it is not close. This is based on facts that I detailed to Anand. It is impossible for a candidate to be the winner without at least 3 big wins (a big win is a large win in a largely populated province; these are Katanga, Orientale, Kinshasa, Equateur, and the combination of both Kivus). I also said that it is mathematically impossible that candidate number 3 is the winner, why?

1. The expected wins for him are: Katanga and Maniema; he won't be the winner in the Kivus because of Kamerhe's presence. He has never been popular in the other provinces (except a good part of Orientale) and has made it worse during the last 5 years.

Katanga's win is cancelled by the two Kasais big wins by Tshisekedi where Tshi will win very large.

Maniema's win is cancelled by Tshisekedi's win in Bas-Congo where, again, Tshi will win large, albeit, smaller than in the Kasais.

Kamerhe, one artisan of #3's wins in the Kivus in 2006 (passing over the obvious statistical inconsistencies of 2006's results) will be very competitive there; I do not expect #3 to lead in the Kivus.

Tshisekedi is competitive in Orientale thanks to the Ituri district; a large electorate.

Summing all this, #3 has no more reserve for buoyancy; Tshisekedi, besides the fact of cancelling the few #3's wins, has Kinshasa (big win), Equateur (where he will top Kengo and Nzanga), and Bandundu (probably not a big one but a win nonetheless ).

2. I have run numerous simulations (and this is my area of expertise). I couldn't find any scenario where #3 is a winner. In the discarded rubric, I said that the best I found for #3 was

Kabila 30 %

Kamerhe 9%

Tshisekedi 43 %

This being the best result and given that the rigging tactic of stuffing the ballots is very difficult for such a large area of action, the Congo, as #3 has found out, it is likely that #3 score will be worse than the above, and consequently, #11's score will be better than the above. Kamerhe is a spoiler for #3 not for #11. #11's electorate is intact and additionally, he will benefit from Bemba electorate.

The claims of closeness or win by #3 in the media are either a reflection of not knowing the Congo politics, economic and social complexities, or an attempt to influence the opinion.

I understand that being on the ground, Jason is cautious (since I believe that he has a good knowledge of the Congo), but for any analyst of the Congo politics, what I am saying is obvious. Let me also repeat that I am very confident about the tool that I am using. Of course, rigging is always a factor; however, the scale of action is so large that I doubt that it could be effective.

Tshisekedi lead in Beni is due to the support he received from Mbusa; another factor that will sink #3. Indeed, Mbusa is the other artisan of his victory in the Kivus in 2006.


Anonymous said...

This analysis makes a lot of sense, I agree with the approach, it takes into consideration the real dynamics of the DRC electorate.- " the rigging of ballots is very difficult for such large area of action,the congo". this is so true. The DRC people seem to have voted for E.T. in a landslide, I hope that the results given by the ceni will reflect this. I am afraid to think of what will happen if Kabila is found the winner after all of this.
Congolese will not accept a Kabila win, in a lot
of places they have shown their rejection of his
rule and will not allow their vote to be hijacked. We need more analysis like this showing the possibilities of a win by either candidate.Thanks for share your work with us.


Anonymous said...

To Mbika, Bismark,

Just say that you are hoping that Tshisekedi wins. Don't affirm that it is already a given that he has won. The race is a close one.

As for Tshisekedi winning in Bandudu, that would be a great surprise. What would be closer to reality is that Kabila wins with the endorsement of PALU. This can be supported by the often violent confrontations between PALU and UDPS in Kinshasa. Which goes to show that PALU supporters are firmly behind Kabila. The other possibility is that the votes are more or less equally distributed between the two.


Mbika said...

To Kongo,

I said that it is mathematically impossible for Kabila to win, and I am showing it. The only way he could win was by rigging the election, but again, I am showing that it is almost impossible for rigging to be effective. I can go on to show how Kamerhe cannot win, but I believe that it is obvious; so let's be practical and not engage in such wasteful discussion.

Consequently, the only likely winner is Tshisekedi.

Bandundu: PALU did not stop Bemba from winning Bandundu in 2006. The Bemba electorate reports to Tshisekedi. So for a surprise, well! you are one. Violence in Kongo is per design, it is, unfortunately, a tool of governance and doesn't reflect any logical outcome. Besides, even in the US, skillful politicians are able to manipulate their followers into violence.


Anonymous said...


The numbers you are using are based on what? If not, your own assessment of things. Hence are subject to bias. At best, they are an intelligent guess, at worst, figments of your own imagination.

Hold your breath. let us wait for the results to start coming out. Then it will be clear who the winner is. The rest is just mere wishful thinking. After perusing a few Congolese forums publishing results, seen how contradictory the people read the very results they have published, I am more and more convinced that many people seem to be led by their own emotions rather than reason.


Mbika said...

Well, I hope then that Jason in his publishing of his own percent intervals for every candidate, was led by his own emotions; I noticed though, that you basically agreed with him. So did I, for the most!

Here comes more about your "Bandundu surprise": for the last legislature, there was no PPRD representative from that province. I think we can both see where the emotions are coming from...

Please provide us with a reasoning such that I provided to the forum, as Bismarck called for, in support for your "closeness" or "Win" by Kabila "wish". Otherwise, the projection (theory of projection in psychology) of wishful thinking applies...


Anonymous said...

I'm going to indulge in a prediction.

Please don't shot me:

Kabila: 35%
Kamerhe: 18%
Etienne: 37%
Others: 10%

Now, if its this- or near this- we still have a "minority" President. And, ofcourse, we have no idea about the National Assembly which is KEY.

So, I say a pretty mixed bag.

Fine analysis, Mbika. Would love to know more about this "tool" of yours....


Mbika said...

No need to shoot anybody, however, you need to provide a rationale for your prediction like I did.
Now, let me provide you with the basis for the tool, which you can then replicate. (As a consultant, I Would have loved to keep it for myself, but, beside the important knowledge of the terrain, it is a pretty straightforward tool to build; so I'd rather show you in order to convince you of Kabila's winning impotency)

1. You need an interval of likely winning scores for each candidate and each province, like the one provided by Jason. It is a variable in the simulation.

2. You need the total number of voters for each province (it is a constant number provided by the CENI).

3. you need to provide a likely (realist, not a statistically unconceivable number like found in 2006 results) turnout for each province; this is a variable in the simulation.

4. You need some automatization of the process since otherwise, you won't be able to simulate all the multiple possibilities. You can apply your knowledge of Congo politics, social and economics to eliminate the non relevant ones.


NOREX said...

Thanks Mbika for your analysis. I totaly agree with you. This is exactely what I told Jason Stearns, my former colleague, a long time ago. It is impossible for Kabila to win.

Kamerhe is the artisan of the defeat of Kabila and the artisan of the victory of Tshisekedi. His tactic of "encerclement" or "verouillage" has benefited more to Thsisekedi than to himself.

I think that now foreign analysts of Congo have understood that a unique candidate of the opposition parties would benefit more to Kabila than to the opposition leader. This is exactly what Kabila was looking for. It would be like the second run off the 2006 presidential election between Bemba and Kabila.

Kongo: please remember that Gizenga did nothing for Kabila in 2006 and Bemba won Bandundu. PALU occupied the positon of Prime Minister for 5 years and not much has been accomplished for people of Bandundu province.

On RFI, a prominent PPRD member said he was surprised by the rising of Thisekedi. Also on RFI, Jean-Claude Baende, the governor of Equateur Province, said that Tshisekedi won the city of Mbandaka. These statements are very important and confirm what Mbika said.



Anonymous said...

EU short term observers are reportedly leaving DRC today, well ahead of schedule, in fear of election day violence. Let's all do what we can to prove them wrong.

Anonymous said...

Eh brother, you are right! Congolese have never been violent! All the violence seen in the eastern part of the DRC has its origins somewhere outside its borders.

Anonymous said...

To buttress Mbika's point, I would like us to reflect on what could be the reasons behind the government's refusal of publishing in the media in real time the results of votes counting. In fact, it is not rocket science, three days after election day, to find out voting trends in different regions. Since each poll station publishes its results right after counting is completed, one has simply to add up theses different poll station results. Adding up almost 63.000 poll stations' results is not rocket science.

Rich said...

Glad to learn that the African observers from the AU, SADC, CEEAC, CIRGL etc... or the Carter Center are satisfied with the electoral process, despite some irregularities. In other words, things may not have been a 100% perfect but they are perfectible.

That said, I also wanted to note that as we are entering the most fragile stage of this electoral process, most of what being said (prononstics) by supporters or even observers on the ground are mere psychological games that can only contribute to praparing for either contestation of the results or celebration. One thing is clear, we shall all wait the CENI's announcement.

To finish, it is also positive to note that the most prominent challengers (JK & ET) have all said they will RESPECT the 'verdict'. This admission should in practice be enough to deter any ambition to protest against the 'verdict'. I trust they WILL, if not then we have a problem in hand that the announced winner/loser will have to address by ensuring they take on board not only the political weight of their challenger, but also the possibility of smoothing out the esges between the two extremes.


Anonymous said...

I must agree it is suprising that results from the different polling stations havent started trickling in, since according to CENI counting was meant to be done at each polling station.Lets wait and see....


Anonymous said...

Good day guys,
Every one is predicting as Tshisekedi a possible winner, just because of the result shown from town election centers.
Does every one know that more than 50% the population in DRC stay in rural areas?
What if Kabila makes his tricks from rural areas, who will complain?
Do you think the Pastor will stand and declare that Tshi won?! even my self i do not do so.
May be the foolish thinks so.
Kabila will be declare a winner - Tshi will be given 50 tractors to farm, the poor will suffer and suffer and then die.

Anonymous said...


No, it is not true that all the observers are done, which is what you are implying with your latest comment. (among others things you are saying which I agree with)

At this point, the various observers seem relatively pleased with the conduct of the elections. They have not issued their opinions on the tabulations process which is, for all intents and purposes, what we call in America "the big lebowski"- or the main event.

So, let's all wait for the vote to be counted, wait for the observers to issue their FINAL result, hold back on all the rumors and predictions, and then get to the final announcement- which will take time given how VERY large this country is...

I know we are all on edge but let's stick to what we know and what has been verified by the press, etc before we jump the gun.

But I do want to state that it is not the case all the observer missions are "a ok" with the entirety of the vote.

Again, they are mostly good on the voting process and have issued PRELIMINARY reports on THAT process.

The next step is the counting and finalizing the voting process and THEN we will have a FINAL report on IT ALL.

@Mbika- I love the analysis but at its root, as with Jason's, is the paramount question of turnout. I agree that it would be very hard for Kabila to coordinate mass fraud- he can't build roads or rails or electricity supply with any sense of a master, coherent plan so I seriously doubt he can organize mass fraud. BUT, turnout is nearly impossible to figure out in the Congo given there is not a way to come up with voter profiles, a consistent degree of polling, etc. We just are not there yet in the Congo and, I will surmise, will not be so for quite some time. Predictions in all democracies are based on a "likely voter" profile. How on Earth can one come up with such a profile in the Congo with any degree of accuracy? Its not possible right now so, again, let's hold back on predictions, wait for the results, and down the road take the vote data and crunch it to start building profiles for other elections. And just to be clear, my oldest son is a major Democratic pollster in DC. He has followed this election for nearly a year and bluntly stated one cannot predict with any level of accuracy who will win- simply educated guesses. He did say he would like laws passed that required the Congolese- given the lack of a postal system- to put down a cell phone # to begin to build a likely voter profile. Short of this, and prognosticators will be spinning their wheels.

Again, folks, let's try to chill and wait for the results and final observer reports.


@Christopher: SEIU huh? Very cool project. Totally agree Congolese unions/others, need some Alinksy-style organizing training. Keep us abreast. My daughter, a Yale grad, is a former lead organizer with SEIU in Las Vegas and is now a labor attorney in Sin City. She lead a successful union organizing campaign at the famed Bellagio Casino 5 years ago. Honestly, my proudest moment as a mother!

Rich said...

Mel -

I get your point but I was not suggesting that all observers are done. Sorry if this is how my post came across but I was reflecting from some of today Radio Okapi's titles that mentionned prominent observers:

"Le centre Carter salue le déroulement des élections en RDC"

"RDC: les observateurs africains satisfaits «de la bonne conduite» des élections"

I am with you when you say we MUST use this almost democratic event to build/improve profiles for the next ones and not WARS/killing of innocents.


Anonymous said...

ok...some comments on the election conduct from someone on the rutshuru territory-
..FARDC did not try to interfere or influence the voting, which is what a lot of doomsdayers predicted. will there be violence...well unlikely...why ??? heres some rationalising-
1.if JK loses.... JK realizes that by refusing to accept the result , given the large UN military presence and present day tolerance standards for dictators he only treads on the path of ivory coast...lose- lose situation.
2.if JK wins ...The existing state security apparatus and overall international support to the legitimacy of the polls will preclude any attempt by ET to stir up a major conflagration.
Therefore in conclusion peace shud prevail-------------------RUTSHURU MAN

Anonymous said...

The problem with Rutshuru Man's analysis is that he assumes that ET has control over his militants. If JK wins fair polls, there will still be mass demonstrations and violent repression in Kinshasa and elsewhere regardless of ET's willingness to accept results.

Mbika said...

(Frank, Kongo... Likely the same person), the forum is still waiting for the rationale behind your (unrealistic) data:

Kabila: 35%
Kamerhe: 18%
Etienne: 37%
Others: 10%


Anonymous said...

Thanks alot, to those who supporting drc congo election results, only one thing i got appriciated it about the thrue from you guys

We all know, how dificult point kabila has?
it's impossible for kabila to win

because,congolese people have decided already,
may he cheat on the election or not.

he must know that, he doesn't deserves to be a president in a country such Drc congo,

like me, however i was not in drc congo but my spirit voted tshisekedi.

and all diaspora congolese all over the world don't like kabila. he sold our oountry at his brother rwandaise, how many congolese woman got rapped, killed,chidren.

No ways kabila, you have to find your way

please don't shoot me, because of the thrue

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