Congo's Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) officials check presidential elections polling stations voting forms at tallying centre in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, January 4, 2019. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Officials from Congo's Independent National Electoral Commission check voting forms in Kinshasa on January 4 © Reuters

Martin Fayulu was the clear winner of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s presidential elections last month, a Financial Times analysis of two separate collections of voting data shows, contradicting claims from authorities that rival contender Felix Tshisekedi had won the historic vote.

The analysis points to huge fraud in the first change of power since Joseph Kabila took over the presidency of the mineral-rich central African nation almost 18 years ago. It is likely to embolden critics of Mr Kabila who suspect the Congolese leader is seeking to cling on to power through a deal with Mr Tshisekedi.

According to a trove of election data seen by the FT and representing 86 per cent of total votes cast across the country, Mr Fayulu won 59.4 per cent of the vote. Rival opposition candidate Mr Tshisekedi, who was declared the surprise winner last week, finished second with 19 per cent, according to this set of data.

An FT analysis of a separate set of voting results collected manually by the Catholic Church’s 40,000 observers and representing 43 per cent of turnout shows that Mr Fayulu secured 62.8 per cent of this sample of votes. The results gathered across 28,733 polling points match almost perfectly the more extensive set of official results seen by the FT.

The larger set of data, a spreadsheet containing more than 49,000 records, contains the true electronically-fed results that authorities have sought to conceal, according to a person with direct knowledge of how the data were obtained. The person, who is close to Mr Fayulu’s camp, asked for anonymity because the data contradict the electoral commission’s official declaration.

The figures provided are electronic tallies from 62,716 voting machines across the country and were obtained from the electoral commission’s central database before the results were announced last week, the person said.

An FT analysis of the tallies shows a near perfect correlation with the Church’s partial results — with a correlation coefficient ranging from 0.976 to 0.991 for each of the three leading candidates (1 representing a perfect match).

The new figures support the Church’s assertion last week that the electoral commission published false results.

“It is extremely difficult to believe . . . that tens of thousands of lines of data could have been fabricated on short notice to produce these results without signs of tampering,” said Jason Stearns, director of the Congo Research Group at the Center on International Cooperation, a New York think-tank, who also reviewed the leaked data. “This highlights the need for a full, scrupulous audit of the election tallies.”

Bubble chart showing that corroborating data sets (leaked electoral commission data and Catholic Church data) point to massive Congo election fraud.

The electoral commission denied its results were fraudulent. Barnabé Kikaya Bin Karubi, chief diplomatic adviser to Mr Kabila, said it would be up to the constitutional court to decide on the validity of the election and declined to comment on any potential fraud. Gilbert Kankonde Nkashama, a spokesman for Mr Tshisekedi, said it was impossible that Mr Fayulu had won the election and questioned the independence of the Catholic Church.

Mr Fayulu is seeking to overturn the result in the constitutional court, although the court’s impartiality has also been questioned.

Congo, a former Belgian colony of 80m people, has held only four elections since independence in 1960 and has never before had a transfer of power through the ballot box. Mr Kabila was due to step down in 2016 but elections were delayed until street protests and regional pressure forced him to hold the vote.

Mr Kabila’s ruling coalition had sought to retain control of the presidency through Emmanuel Shadary, his chosen successor. Mr Fayulu’s supporters have alleged that when voters failed to come out for Mr Shadary in sufficient numbers — he finished third — the election commission was told to install Mr Tshisekedi instead.

According to the results seen by the FT, Mr Fayulu received more than 9.3m votes, 3m more than the electoral commission announced, and won in 19 of Congo’s 26 provinces, including the capital Kinshasa and the heavily populated eastern provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu.

In contrast, Mr Tshisekedi scored 3m votes, the data indicate, 4.1m fewer than the electoral commission showed, while Mr Shadary secured 2.9m votes, or 1.5m votes fewer than the published tally.

A graphic with no description

The data show the results of 15.7m out of the 18.3m votes that were cast on election day, but the missing votes could not have resulted in a different winner. Malfunctions in voting machines meant that not all vote tallies were transmitted to the central database, the person with knowledge of the database said.

The file takes the form of a spreadsheet of comma-separated values, a format used by many software packages to store tabular data, and runs to more than 49,000 rows. Each polling station is identified by a unique six-digit number.

The FT analysis also found no significant evidence that the data deviated from Benford’s law, a statistical test commonly used in fields such as forensic accounting to identify fraudulent data.

Additional reporting by Andrew Garthwaite in London

Letter in response to this article:

AU can take bolder action in polls after Congo role / From Ejeviome Eloho Otobo, Brussels, Belgium

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