Inside Tshisekedi’s plan to postpone elections

By Alcade Ndemeye
On 10 March 2023 at 02:29

  • M23 resumed fighting in September 2021
  • In 2021, MP André Claudel Lubaya announced high possibility for postponement of elections
  • In February 2022, INEC Chairperson Denis Kadima announced reasons for adjournment of elections
  • In July 2022, Kadima raised concerns over insufficient budget allocated for preparations of elections

  • In September 2022, Tshisekedi affirmed that the postponement of elections was not possible
  • On 26th October 2022; Patrick Muyaya, DR Congo’s Minister of Communication announced that provocations could disrupt elections
  • In January 2023, Speaker of Parliament, Christophe Mboso said that elections would not be possible amidst ongoing fighting
  • On 27th February 2023, President Tshisekedi reminisced on postponement of polls

It is obvious that there are people who succeed in finding an excuse for their flaws but others fail at the onset. This is what the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been trying as part of a broad plan that existed for long to postpone elections until the country dragged Rwanda into its mess under the cover of an ongoing fighting with M23 rebel group yet the reality is self-evidencing.

Congolese government has been making utterances that elections cannot be held amidst insecurity facing the country ignoring evidences proving that it was the country’s long-term plan to blame neighbours, particularly Rwanda for the postponement.

DR Congo started declaring the adjournment of presidential polls early, but surprisingly, the country did not outline plans to address those challenges.

This proves how the goal was to find justification ahead of time to be proactive on mixed reactions that would emerge from the country’s President, Felix Tshisekedi’s prolonged stay in office.

Since September 2021, before M23 resumed fighting, there were plans to revise electoral law to hold polls in two phases in case the presidential aspirant on top did not secure above 50% of votes.

At the time, Parliamentarian André Claudel Lubaya who once served as cabinet member said that there was high possibility for postponement of elections in case all requirements were not met by 15th September 2023.

He explained that elections would hardly be held without disruptions in case the country was not fully prepared.

As he assumed duties in February 2022, the Chairperson of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Denis Kadima was fast to declare that there are reasons pushing for adjournment of elections.

Kadima outlined three reasons that might lead to the postponement of elections.

Among them, he cited insecurity in some parts of the country, financial constraints and political unrest.

At the time, the fighting with M23 and relations with Rwanda were not part of these reasons.

On 28th July 2022, Kadima told Jeune Afrique that he made the statement ahead of time lest he would be held accountable in case the date could be changed without prior notice.

He was raising concerns that the commission was faced with financial constraints and needed US$624 million to buy equipment to be used during elections including 29,000 machines for voters’ registration.

“[If it happens], the government will be responsible for the delay of elections.”

Congo turned back on all these concerns but considered tricks to find an excuse for postponement of elections.

Initially, Tshisekedi would not comment on these statements because he was busy making a thorough planning.

During an interview with RFI and France 24 in September 2022, Tshisekedi affirmed that the postponement of elections was not possible that ‘there was nothing to worry about’ but later fell for contradictory statements.

Open declarations

Presidential polls in DRC are scheduled on 20th December 2023. The date was confirmed on 26th November 2022.

Before the confirmation, DRC government had already found an excuse to postpone elections.

On 26th October 2022; Patrick Muyaya, DR Congo’s Minister of Communication and Government Spokesperson released a statement claiming that his country continues to face provocations from Rwanda, ‘which might disrupt elections’.

At the time, he sounded alarm to the international community noting that ‘peace and security in eastern DRC are paramount for smooth elections in 2023’.

Since then, intentions to adjourn elections were openly disclosed until the Speaker of Parliament, Christophe Mboso, held a visit to Belgium in January 2023 to demand support for a war against Rwanda.

Mboso elucidated that elections would not be possible in North Kivu Province when the fighting was going on.

DRC did not make efforts to address barriers hindering elections’ process but rather overlooked resolutions reached by regional heads of state to restore peace in eastern part of the country.

It continued to work with armed groups including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), Mai Mai and made reactions that intensified violence against Kinyarwanda-speaking communities.

FDLR is a terrorist group formed by individuals responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Besides, Tshisekedi travelled to Geneva, Switzerland to attend the fifty-second session United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council on 27th February 2023 that is normally attended by ambassadors, where he hinted at the postponement of polls.

He declared that elections are likely to be disrupted, if the fighting continues in eastern Congo, due to a large number of displaced citizens.

Tshisekedi and his government continuously ignored the truth and leaned on war as an excuse for postponement of elections.

He tried to put forward his reasons to convince the international community but efforts seem to be futile.

In front of Pope Francis, Tshisekedi blamed Rwanda for insecurity in his country again. He did the same during the recent visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to the country but attracted no special attention.

Tshisekedi explained that voters’ registration may delay because citizens have fled the country, which is also deemed to affect timelines for elections.

It is worth noting that postponing elections has become a hot topic at a time when Tshisekedi is being reminded that his installation as President did not go through a transparent process.

President Macron recently told him that circumstances under which elections were held in 2018 are known.

There are more evidences that Tshisekedi did not win recent polls but was installed after agreements with his predecessor, Joseph Kabila.