OPINION: Congo Kicks the Can Down the Road

How a Failed Election Could Lead to a Violent Uprising

By Tatiana Carayannis and Herbert Weiss

On December 30, 2018, millions of citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo braved torrential downpours, navigated chaotic crowds, and stood in long lines to do something they had not done in seven years: vote. According to Congo’s constitution, elections were supposed to have been held in 2016, but the regime repeatedly delayed them. After a failed effort to lift presidential term limits, Congo’s leadership finally relented to mounting domestic, regional, and international pressure, agreeing last year to hold elections and endorsing a successor from the ruling coalition.


Some Congolese voters held out hope for peaceful change in a country that has been ruled for 21 years by the Kabila regime—first under Laurent-Désiré Kabila and now under his son Joseph. But many suspected that the electoral commission would rig the vote on behalf of the ruling coalition’s candidate. It came as a surprise, then, when, on January 10, the commission made the provisional announcement that someone else had won: Felix Tshisekedi, the son of a long-time opposition hero.


The outcome was quickly called into question. Leaked data from the electoral commission and from the Catholic Church, which fielded 40,000 electoral observers, indicates that the true winner was a different opposition candidate, Martin Fayulu, and rumors are swirling of a backroom deal in which Kabila agreed to name Tshisekedi president, presumably in exchange for continued control over the security services and the maintenance of the Kabila family’s wealth. The regime seems to have calculated that anointing the ruling party candidate as president would have been a bridge too far in a country where the governing class is deeply unpopular, and so it settled on Tshisekedi, apparently a more accommodating opponent than Fayulu, as a fallback option.

In the short run, the announcement of an opposition victory likely averted an immediate popular uprising. But by demonstrating to Congolese that true reform is unlikely to happen through the ballot box, it has sown the seeds for deepening disorder and instability down the line.


  1. FGM

    The rampant misrule and corruption in African presidency are what force African presidents to cling to power. If perpetuality fails they ensure that their hand picked successor takeover. Shame indeed.!

  2. Jonas

    Dont worry even if they amass thr wealthy they will still die ang go to eternal punishment for their selfishness just like ka Frederick chiluba

  3. Eddie

    Currently in South Africa there is a commission of enquiry going on regarding the state capture allegations. It’s quite intriguing how top government officials have been involved in rampant corruption. How I wish such an enquiry could be adopted by our government in Zambia in order to root out evil from both the public and private sector. Zambia deserves to be at a better level economically and I believe some individuals are retarding progress. Leaders have amassed huge wealth overnight and we need to know how this has come about.
    Wake up Africa.

  4. Kas win

    Itx a matter of time.
    Not all good thingz last only to one side.
    It goes round and round no matter how long.

  5. Herv Rena

    Pa Africa kuwaya waya fye.Only cliques and curtails feeding from high table ar enjoying and exchanging power.Ma election ni capamenso.Its animal farm.

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  7. Pamusebo

    Big thanks to ex president for academic accepting the results. Guns shall never bring development and peace in Congo DR. Let Congo DR be Congolese and let the Congolese solve their inter internal issues. May almighty Jehovah richly bless

  8. Cplove

    God bless the country of Congo and serve christians especially children who doesn’t know anything

  9. Nephat

    Congratulations my dear

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