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The US response to the elections

On Thursday, the US Senate held a hearing on elections in the Congo. It is worthwhile reading the statement submitted by Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Jonnie Carson. After stating that the elections “were deficient in many ways,” he says:

We continue to advocate that all Congolese political leaders and their supporters act responsibly, renounce violence, and resolve any disagreements through peaceful constructive dialogue and existing legal remedies.  We believe that a rapid technical review of the electoral process by the Congolese authorities may shed light on the cause of the irregularities, suggest ways in which governance could be structured to give better effect to the will of the Congolese people, and provide guidance for future elections (my italics).

At the moment I write this, the Supreme Court has apparently rejected Kamerhe’s lawsuit and will no doubt confirm Kabila as president, so the “existing legal remedies” have been exhausted. As far as I can tell, this statement means the United States is not calling for anything but a technical review to “provide guidance for future elections,”  not to provide redress for this vote.

One of the reasons seems to be the following logical fallacy: There were serious irregularities, but we don’t know if these would have changed the outcome of the elections – so we shouldn’t be so alarmed? I admit, I am paraphrasing, but that logic has been expressed by the Congolese government, as well as perhaps even by Carson:

It is important to note that we do not know—and it might not be possible to determine with any certainty whether the final order of candidates would have been different from the provisional results had the management of the process been better.

It’s not clear to me how this matters. If there were massive irregularities, and we don’t know who won – isn’t that a good reason to push for steps to address the flaws in the current elections, not just to make policy five years down the road? Instead, the Congolese government has interpreted this as meaning, “we don’t call into question who won the elections,” which neither the Carter Center or EU missions said. Instead, these missions concluded: We don’t know who won these elections. And we should.

The testimonies by Carson, as well as those of Tony Gambino (ECI), Mark Schneider (ICG), Mvemba Dizolele (Hoover Institution) and Jonnie Carson can be found here.

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