Felix Tshisekedi of Congo's Union for Democracy and Social Progress opposition party, at a press conference in Nairobi, Kenya. Congo's Constitutional Court has ratified the election of Tshisekedi as president. File picture: Ben Curtis/AP
Johannesburg - SADC has congratulated Felix Tshisekedi as the President-elect of the DRC after the Constitutional Court affirmed his election on Sunday. President Ramaphosa has echoed these sentiments and encouraged the people of the DRC to accept the ruling and move forward to consolidate peace.

The supporters of Martin Fayulu are not accepting the Constitutional Court's ruling, however. Fayulu has called for the opposition to organize protests against the Courts ruling, which has heightened tension on the streets.

Southern African leaders have made it clear to the international community that the sovereignty and constitution of the DRC must be respected, and there must be no outside interference in the country’s internal legal and political processes in finalising the electoral process. This is an important position given the history of the DRC from King Leopold to Mobutu sese Seko, and the more recent efforts of outside powers to influence the future trajectory of the country. 

The DRC may have attained independence in 1960, but it has never been free, free of the great power game that has played its politicians like puppets for too many years. It is for Africans to now support the fledgeling public institutions in the DRC, and ensure they are respected and supported. The DRC’s Constitutional Court was only established in 2006 and became fully functional just over three years ago in 2015. While the concern of the political opposition is that the Court may not be impartial, given that its nine judges are appointed by the President, it would be wrong to circumvent the power of that court to pronounce on the way forward in the election process. 

Minister for International Relations Lindiwe Sisulu should be credited for consistently pushing for the principle of political self-determination in the DRC. While Sisulu took note of the grievances of the DRC opposition presidential candidate Martin Fayulu regarding the electoral process, she had supported the fact that those grievances were raised through the proper constitutional mechanisms and processes. In order not to preempt the DRC’s internal processes, South Africa has not called for a vote recount, or in any way prescribed a form of government or presupposed an outcome of the election process. 

Having served previously as the Minister of Intelligence and also Defence, Sisulu has decades of experience dealing with the political dynamics at play in the DRC, and is keenly aware of the need to allow the democratic process to unfold unhindered by pronouncements from beyond the DRC’s borders. This is a key juncture given that it is the first democratic transfer of power in the history of the DRC, which makes a smooth and just transition essential. 

It was revealed during the course of last week that the statement put out by Zambian President Edgar Lungu a week ago as the Chair of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, supporting the idea of a vote recount and a government of national unity was not the official SADC position. Unfortunately, there had been no consultation regarding the statement and it was not issued on official SADC letterhead. The statement had caused unnecessary confusion both within the region and the media. The SADC Double Troika meeting held in Addis Ababa on Thursday clarified the regional position.

The African Union, with Rwandan President Paul Kagame as the Chairperson, expressed concern about CENI's reported election results. In a consultative meeting of African Heads of State, in particular leaders of the regional communities and African members of the UN Security Council, which also took place on Thursday, a collective statement was issued. 

The statement expressed “serious doubts on the conformity of provisional results as proclaimed by the electoral commission,” and called for the suspension of a proclamation of the final results. It was also decided that a high-level African delegation which is to include the Chair of the AU, the Chair of the AU Commission, and other AU leaders would hold a meeting in Kinshasa with all Congolese stakeholders with a view to reaching consensus on a way out of the post-electoral crisis. Given the ruling of the Constitutional Court on Sunday, the visit of the African delegation has been postponed.

However the region addresses the ongoing challenges in the DRC, it is a very real attempt by the continent to achieve African solutions to African problems.