The Democratic Republic of Congo has a new leader in waiting after the election commission announced on Thursday that Felix Tshisekedi, head of the country’s largest opposition party, is the provisional winner of a long-delayed, now-disputed presidential election. He will inherit a host of humanitarian crises – from Ebola to protracted conflicts – that continue to plague the vast Central African nation.
In previous elections in 2006 and 2011, disputed results sparked violent protests. There are fears that a repeat this time around might see a fresh eruption of political violence, which could worsen one of the world’s largest humanitarian emergencies.
If Tshisekedi is confirmed the winner and replaces Joseph Kabila after 18 years, it will be both historic and contentious: historic in that it would represent Congo’s first ever peaceful transfer of democratic power; contentious due to accusations of fraud and voter manipulation – murmurs even of a possible power-sharing deal behind the scenes between Tshisekedi and Kabila’s preferred successor, the ruling party’s Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.
The Catholic Church, which has an influential role in Congolese politics and deployed some 40,000 observers to monitor the 30 December polls, indicated to journalists before the provisional result that opposition candidate Martin Fayulu – backed by two of Kabila’s longtime rivals – was the winner. Since the result, which must be confirmed by the Supreme Court before the 18 January inauguration, it has only said the vote tally (7 million to Tshisekedi, 6.4 million to Fayulu, 4.4 million to Shadary) doesn’t match its data. Fayulu himself has denounced the result as an “electoral coup”.
Officially, Congo is not a country at war. But the mineral-rich country, roughly the size of Western Europe, is in the midst of dozens of protracted conflicts involving hundreds of armed groups, including in the provinces of Tanganyika, Haut-Katanga, and Mai-Ndombe.
With some five million people currently displaced, and almost 13 million in need of assistance, the new president faces more than just political problems. Here are four of the most pressing humanitarian challenges he will have to deal with in 2019.