Exiled Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) presidential aspirant Moïse Katumbi has given the clearest indication yet that results of this year’s elections will trigger instability in the vast central African nation – a situation he fears may have ripple effects on the region as well as the continent.
Katumbi, who now lives in Belgium, has been prevented from contesting the December 23 election.
Speaking to City Press while in Johannesburg this week, he warned that instability in the DRC would have a spiral effect on the entire southern African region and beyond.
The country’s citizens are scheduled to go to the polls in December amid disputes arising from the disqualification and blocking of other presidential aspirants.
Katumbi, the former governor of Katanga province in the southern DRC, claimed his plane was prevented from landing in the country, adding that he was stopped from crossing the border from Zambia to enter the country and fill in the nomination forms.
He said all he wanted was to contest the elections, and win or lose, he would accept the outcome.
Katumbi has become the second high-profile political figure, after former vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba, to issue a strong warning about potential instability in the DRC if there is a disputed election result.
He has since urged the Southern African Development Community (SADC) not to allow the situation in the Congo to degenerate to levels that will be difficult to control.
“Not agreeing on what is supposed to be done is really a big problem, and that is why I am appealing to the SADC – because they don’t have to keep quiet about the situation in the Congo,” he said, adding that there was a lot at stake if peace broke down irretrievably.
“They [SADC] don’t have to wait until things become bad for them to intervene. This is the right time to intervene, for the stability of the SADC region.”
There is a likelihood that the result in the DRC will be disputed after Katumbi, Bemba and four others were not allowed to contest. The four include three former prime ministers – Samy Badibanga, Adolphe Muzito and Antoine Gizenga – and the only woman candidate, Marie-Josée Ifoku Mputa Mpunga.
Further disputes, according to Katumbi, will arise from the use of the voting machines, which civil society and opposition political parties have rejected.
Experts have indicated that the voting machines, procured from South Korea, are not a good mechanism to use in the DRC, given that the country’s projected voting population of 46 million has problems with electricity supply and stable high-speed internet – both important factors in ensuring the successful use of the machines.
The voting machines have an estimated 10-hour battery life but when in use, the lifespan drops to about three hours.
Katumbi said the reasons for procuring the voting machines had everything to do with the massive plunder of national resources and an attempt to rig elections in favour of the ruling party nominee, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.
“The voting machines have been used to steal money from the Congolese government,” he said.
“The price of that machinery is $400 (R5 700) each. The SADC can do its own investigation. They [the Congolese government] charge $1 500 per machine. They got $150 million to purchase the machines but $110 million has gone missing.”
Katumbi pointed to Argentina and Iraq as examples of places where the machines had failed to operate, saying this, along with the fact that they had not been tested, was a legitimate reason for not using them in the DRC.
He said the funds used to buy the machines should have been channelled to providing services such as roads and medicines, and improving water supply.
Katumbi said manoeuvres to block him from contesting were undemocratic and an affront to his rights.
He accused President Joseph Kabila of abusing his powers to target opposition figures. “Why is he trying to block everything? He wants to choose his candidate. He wants to give us a fraud for a president.
“No opposition can hold any meeting today in the Congo. The place for the opposition, if they hold meetings, is jail,” he said.
Katumbi appealed to the SADC to compel Kabila and the ruling party to respect the Saint Sylvestre Accord, which was the agreement which allowed the incumbent to stay in power for an additional two years, after the expiry of his final five-year mandate in 2016.
He said the Saint Sylvestre Accord was a follow-up to the Sun City Agreement, concluded more than 10 years ago. The latter accord, signed in 2002 at Sun City, established a transitional government in which Kabila remained president, with four factional groups under his oversight. Former president Thabo Mbeki played an instrumental role in brokering that deal.
Katumbi also lamented the recent decision by the Congolese authorities to reject Mbeki, who had been appointed as special envoy to help pacify the civil strife arising from disagreements over the upcoming electoral process.
“President Mbeki was instrumental in bringing peace in the Congo. When he was president, our country was divided by four factions. There was the Movement for the Liberation of Congo for Bemba, there was Kabila, there was the Rally for Congolese Democracy-Goma and there was Jean-Lucien Bussa of the CDER party. Kabila never won the war; it is the people of South Africa, through President Mbeki, who contributed to the peace we have enjoyed so far.
“If President Mbeki had not put pressure on these groups, there would have been no election and no peace. Kabila was supposed to lose power a long time ago, but it is South Africa that helped stabilise the situation,” he added.
Katumbi said the rejection of Mbeki was an embarrassment to the people of the DRC and a sign of ingratitude on the part of Kabila.
On Thursday, the Congolese Election Commission released the final list of candidates contesting the December 23 polls – in effect, barring Katumbi and Bemba from the race.
Katumbi accused Kabila of illegitimately supervising the election so that he could secure the result of a candidate he could control.
“President Kabila is going to create big instability in the region. He wants to leave total chaos in the Congo because of what he did by not respecting the Constitution. Congolese people need electricity; the children need to go to school; Congolese people need better roads; Congolese people need clean water supply; they need a good health system,” he said.
“Congolese people need a better life. If there is a better life for us, we will not run away to settle in Zambia or South Africa or other countries. One of the richest countries in the world is Congo, and if you can see what is happening here, with the region keeping quiet about it, it is not good.”
Last week, some members of the opposition including Bemba and Katumbi, met in Brussels to explore the possibility of fielding a common candidate.
The lobbying continued this week on Tuesday when Katumbi and six other opposition leaders met with senior members of the ANC in Johannesburg.
(CREDIT: City Press)