UPDATE, 20/1/2019: The official winner of the DRC presidential elections is not the man from fake news but Felix Tshisekedi of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress. Martin Fayulu, the joint candidate of seven opposition parties, believes the results have been rigged and independent observers agree. Stability in the country, reopening of the Virunga National Park and inclusion of Eastern Congo in the Gorilla Highlands region remain only a hope for now.
The Gorilla Highlands team has been keeping an eye on the DRC because we wish to extend the definition of our region to include the Eastern part of this enormous and fascinating country. It simply belongs.
However, our promotion of tourism to assist social and economic development cannot happen without peace. And peace cannot happen without presidential elections that the Congolese can believe in.
They finally voted on 30 December 2018, for many a sign of hope after being denied this right for years. Some days later the national Catholic Church shocked the country and world by declaring that the winner was so clear that there should be no attempts at delaying the results. They had a reasonable basis for that claim: the church had sent 40,000 election observers out.
Yesterday the electoral commission refused to publish the results, claiming delivery delays. Today social media users in the neighbouring countries are being shown ads celebrating “victory” by the ruling regime’s candidate… Fake news per excellence. Ironically the regime had also switched off internet access at home, saying that it would curb … fake news.
But the fact that the people in power are trying to stay in power is not that surprising. The surprise is that Facebook is still happy to spread fake news with tremendous consequences — after all their assurances following a number of global screw-ups. Declaring a winner the day after no winner is officially declared, that really should not be too difficult to stop?
It will be interesting to see how much social media platforms, Congo’s neighbours and world powers have learned from past mistakes. The Congolese people deserve far better than this, and that is why the Gorilla Highlands initiative is making a big exception by taking a stand.
text: Miha Logar