Democratic Republic of Congo’s president elect Felix Tshisekedi received a chorus of congratulations from African leaders on Sunday and Monday in a growing sign that his disputed election win will not be questioned internationally.
Regional support is crucial for Tshisekedi after a disorganised election on Dec. 30 that runner-up candidate Martin Fayulu says was rigged and that Congo’s Catholic Church contested. Many worry that outgoing president Joseph Kabila will continue to hold sway, limiting Tshisekedi’s power.
The new president will be the first to take power through an election since Congo’s independence in 1960, when Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba was toppled in a coup after less than three months in office. Congolese and their neighbours are anxious that the process remain peaceful in a country that has drawn regional armies into its civil wars over the decades.
International allies and neighbours had struggled to come to a consensus after the poll that observers said was marred by a series of irregularities including malfunctioning voting machines and polling stations that opened late or closed early.
In a surprise statement last week, the African Union asked for the final results to be postponed because of “serious doubts” over the conduct of the election, raising fears that a protracted dispute could fan unrest in the volatile country of 80 million people.
But since the Constitutional Court early on Sunday rejected Fayulu’s complaint and backed Tshisekedi’s victory, opposition to the vote appears to have softened. Tshisekedi is expected to be sworn in on Jan. 24.
South African president Cyril Ramaphosa congratulated Tshisekedi on Monday, according to Reuters, and in a statement “called on all parties and all stakeholders in the DRC to respect the decision of the Constitutional Court”.
The presidents of Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi congratulated Tshisekedi in a series of Tweets on Sunday, echoing the Southern African Development Community (SADC) – a bloc that includes South Africa and Angola – which also called for the transition of power to remain peaceful, backing off from earlier calls for a recount.
The AU has yet to comment since it noted the court’s decision. It postponed a visit by a high-level delegation to Kinshasa that had been scheduled for Monday.
Fayulu says Tshisekedi and outgoing President Joseph Kabila made a deal to cheat him out of a more than 60-percent win – an accusation they both deny.
On Monday he asked African leaders to “respect the sovereign decision of the Congolese people who elected me president”.
“Last week we had seen a risk of foreign intervention, if the heads of neighbouring states backed Mr Fayulu in a protracted dispute. Now that most of them have accepted Mr Tshisekedi’s win, the risk looks somewhat lower,” said research firm NKC African Economics in a statement on Monday.
Police in the capital Kinshasa blocked access to the headquarters of a party in Fayulu’s Lamuka coalition, where he had intended to gather supporters and protest against the confirmation of Tshisekedi’s victory.
Lamuka spokeswoman Eve Bazaiba told Reuters the building had been besieged and protesters dispersed, forcing Fayulu to abandon his plans.
Some Congolese hoped Fayulu would accept defeat in the interest of peace.
“He (Fayulu) needs to let it go. Going to the Constitutional Court and all that is just creating problems and for me it’s a waste of time,” said Kinshasa resident Patricia Mokabi.
“We are all Congolese, we are together whether it is Felix or Fayulu, they can work together.”
Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister Didier Reynders told local media he would have preferred the process to be more transparent, and the verification of results to be more open.
Western countries also initially expressed doubt about the preliminary vote count. Since Tshisekedi’s victory was confirmed, their responses have been more muted than those of countries in the region.
France said on Monday it had “taken note” of Tshisekedi’s victory and that it would be sending its ambassador to the swearing in ceremony. The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said at a press conference that the EU would take a position after meeting with the AU on Monday.
Russia’s foreign ministry noted the historical importance of the electoral transfer of power: “We consider these elections a milestone in the political life of the DRC.”
Africa records highest growth in use of modern contraceptives
Gains of 7 per cent were recorded in East and Southern Africa, against a global growth of 2 per cent.
The number of women and girls embracing modern contraception has leapt by tens of millions, with Africa recording the biggest gains, according to the organisation Family Planning 2020 (FP2020).
A new report shows that 314 million women and girls in 69 countries – out of 926 million of child-bearing age – now use contraceptive methods like condoms, pills and birth control implants.
The figures represent a gain of 2 per cent globally since 2012, while gains of 7 per cent were recorded in East and Southern Africa.
“The use of modern contraception is growing fastest here in Africa,” FP2020 director Beth Schlachter told a press conference in Nairobi, ahead of a global conference on population and development set to begin Tuesday.
FP2020, a self-described “global movement” founded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the British government, works with governmental and non-governmental partners to promote goals set at a conference in London in 2012.
Specifically, it has been striving for 120 million new contraception users by 2020.
“Family planning is a basic right,” said Benoit Kalasa, a representative of the United Nations Population Fund, citing the dangers posed by pregnancies that are too close together or that occur at a young age.
“It gives women the means to plan their life. They can stay in school when they avoid unplanned pregnancies. Women can space pregnancies to participate in economic activities.”
Of the 69 countries covered in the report, 41 are in Africa, 21 are in Asia and Oceania, four are in Latin America and the Caribbean and three are in the Middle East.
Schlachter said that governments seem increasingly focused on integrating family planning into health policy with an eye toward overcoming logistical challenges and cultural and religious barriers.
“In many places, even if you resolve things like funding of family planning or supply chain, unless you also work with communities and women to actually understand what contraception is, there will be a barrier to uptake.”
This week’s International Conference on Population and Development in Nairobi is not without controversy.
On Monday around 100 supporters of a Catholic organisation demonstrated against the conference, which will focus on demographics and reproductive rights.
Victoire Ingabire launches new political party in Rwanda
Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire announced Saturday she was launching a new political party
Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire announced Saturday she was launching a new political party, hoping it will be allowed to operate in a country where the ruling regime has no real rival.
Ingabire’s previous party FDU-Inkingi, which she founded while in exile in 2016, was not recognised by the government of long-ruling President Paul Kagame.
She was imprisoned until receiving a presidential pardon last year from Kagame, whom she regularly accuses of suppressing freedom of speech, repressing the opposition and neglecting the country’s poor.
“I am announcing the launch of a new opposition party,” Ingabire told AFP, saying it would be called Dalfa Umurunzi (Development And Liberty For All).
“This will help me to continue the mission that had been assigned to me by the FDU-Inkingi party,” she added.
“The political space in this country is very limited but we are ready to fulfil all legal requirements for registration and conduct our activities in accordance to the laws of the nation.”
She returned from exile in The Netherlands intending to run for president in 2010 as FDU-Inkingi’s leader.
But she was arrested, charged with terrorism and sentenced to more than a decade in jail during a widely criticised trial. She was unexpectedly granted early release alongside more than 2,000 other prisoners in September last year.
Ingabire, an ethnic Hutu, was accused of “genocide ideology” and “divisiveness” after publicly questioning the government narrative of the 1994 genocide of mostly Tutsi people that killed around 800,000 people.
Numerous FDU-Inkingi members have disappeared or been killed in mysterious circumstances over the last few years. The party accuses the government of brutally cracking down on dissenting voices.
One member was stabbed near the capital Kigali in September, while party spokesman Anselm Mutuyimana was kidnapped in March, his body later found in a forest.
Although Rwanda is constitutionally a multi-party system there is practically no opposition, with most of the recognised parties supporting the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).
Kagame, the de facto ruler since his rebel army stopped the genocide in 1994, has been praised for bringing stability and economic growth to his tiny nation but often comes under fire for restricting political freedom.
He commonly wins re-election with more than 90 per cent of the vote.
Springboks’ Rugby World Cup win springs hope of unity in South Africa
The significance of Kolisi lifting the trophy after a 32-12 victory over England resonated across South Africa.
South Africans white and black celebrated wildly on Saturday and expressed hopes that the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup win, inspired by black captain Siya Kolisi, would bring the nation together.
The significance of Kolisi lifting the trophy after a 32-12 victory over England in Yokohama resonated across South Africa.
During the years of apartheid, rugby was clearly identified as the sport of the country’s white minority.
When Kolisi was made South Africa’s first black Test captain last year, it felt as if a barrier had been broken down — and in Yokohama on Saturday his achievement, and the team’s gradual racial transformation, was there for the world and millions of South Africans back home to see.
“Knowing where we come from as a country and to see Kolisi lift the trophy is absolutely monumental. It is really an incredible moment. Tears come to my eyes,” said Tshenolo Molatedi, a 26-year-old who watched the match at a Johannesburg sports club.
Joseph Mitchell, 50, a black actor, said the victory would have enormous significance.
“We are now 25 years into democracy and for the last 25 years, whites have dominated rugby and everything! It’s about time that people of colour can come forward to prove to the world that we are capable and probably better.”
The apartheid-era legacy meant that whites dominated the Springboks’ previous two World Cup-winning teams, despite only representing 10 per cent of the South African population.
Only one black player, Chester Williams, was in the victorious 1995 team and two, JP Pietersen and Bryan Habana, were part of the Springboks team that triumphed again 12 years later.
On Saturday, black wingers Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe scored the two late tries that put the final beyond the reach of England, who were pre-match favourites.
“If you give black people a chance they can deliver and today’s win is a proof of that,” said Tsakane Mabunda, 45.
Seeing Kolisi hold the Webb Ellis trophy aloft brought back memories of the 1995 win when South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela, presented the trophy to the team’s white captain, Francois Pienaar.
“Our father, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, is smiling from the heavens today. Halala Siya Kolisi, treasure of the nation!” another of the heroes of the fight against racial segregation, Desmond Tutu, said in a congratulatory message to the team.
A quarter of a century after the fall of apartheid, South Africa is still riven by racial tensions and deep economic inequality between whites and blacks remains.
But Tom Hammonds, 34, a white teacher, said the Rugby World Cup had united the country.
“We feel we are the Rainbow Nation. We have had a lot of problems in this country but sports always bring us together,” he said.
The ruling ANC also drew on Mandela’s legacy to express its hope that the World Cup win would bring lasting dividends.
“Sport is one of the biggest catalysts of social cohesion and nation-building, bringing together all South Africa’s people,” it said in a statement addressed to the team.
“Thank you for reigniting the Madiba magic – and making our Rainbow nation come alive.”
In Cape Town, the crowd watching the match on big screens erupted in joy at the final whistle.
“Look around, we have black, white, coloured … we are all united here today,” said Justin Johnson, a 35-year-old IT worker.
“The Springboks have done more for South Africa than any political party.
“I feel like in 1995 and even 2007 the Springbok emblem was still synonymous with the old regime and caused a lot of division. But today I think we have come full circle.”
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