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What next for the DR Congo after the disputed election? | Elections 2018





The unexpected outcome of the December 30 general election in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) baffled even the most seasoned watchers of the country.

If we are to believe the provisional results announced by the Congolese National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) on January 9, opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi decisively won the presidential election with 36.6 percent of the votes. The runner up was Martin Fayulu, the leader of the Lamuka coalition, who scored 34.8 percent. And Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, the presidential candidate of Joseph Kabila’s ruling Common Front for Congo (FCC) coalition, came third with 23.8 percent.

However, the FCC coalition won the senatorial and legislative elections in a landslide. In other words, at least according to the CENI, the Congolese people overwhelmingly rejected Ramazani Shadary’s presidential bid, but gave the coalition supporting him a super majority in both the senate and the parliament.

INSIDE STORY: An ‘electoral coup’ in the Democratic Republic of Congo? (25:00)

This puzzling result led most reasonable observers of the election to come to the conclusion that Tshisekedi’s unexpected win was the result of a backroom deal between Tshisekedi and the FCC coalition aiming to help Kabila maintain control over important ministries and the security services with the help of a “friendly president” in the coming years.

This is not a far-fetched scenario. As stipulated in the constitution, upon leaving the presidency, Joseph Kabila will become a senator for life and preside over the senate. We can also assume that Kabila’s coalition will most certainly maintain its control over the military, foreign affairs, homeland security, the budget, and the mining sector. If these assumptions stand, it is a foregone conclusion that the focus of Congolese political power will be shifting from the presidency to the Senate. In this context, it is reasonable to expect the FCC coalition to do anything in its power to prevent a hostile political figure from taking over the presidency. 

All this is to say that the results of the 2018 Congolese general elections are murky at best. Even if one believes that Tshisekedi had enough popular support to squarely win the presidential contest, it is hard to comprehend how Kabila’s coalition lost the presidency but won the legislative elections in a landslide.

Reports on irregularities surrounding the election process also make it hard for anyone to find the results announced last week by the CENI reliable.

On December 13, for example, 8,000 electronic voting machines were destroyed in a mysterious fire at a guarded warehouse in Congo’s capital, forcing the electoral commission to postpone the election, which was originally scheduled for December 23. Also, voters in several regions of the Congo, such as Beni, failed to participate due to the ongoing Ebola outbreak and the insecurity posed by armed groups.

Moreover, there have been several reports signalling major irregularities such as discarded ballot boxes, people who were not on the ballot miraculously winning local elections and a number of voting machines running long after the polls were supposed to close. If proven correct, these irregularities could cast further doubts on the electoral outcomes.

In light of all this, many national and international observers disputed the results of the election.

WATCH: UN urges DR Congo to refrain from violence after election result (2:00)

Martin Fayulu, who came second according to the CETU but claims to be the real winner of the presidential race, appealed to the country’s Constitutional Court to cancel the provisional result. He too supports the idea that Tshisekedi was declared the winner of the election only because he made a deal with the TCC coalition.

More importantly, DRC’s powerful Catholic Church, which deployed more than 40,000 observers to monitor the elections, said it determined “the real winner” of the presidential race and strongly suggested that Tshisekedi’s win is not legitimate.

In a statement released on December 10, the church said that “the results of the presidential election published by (the electoral commission) do not match those collected by our observer mission.” 

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) also issued a statement saying the DRC should recount the votes of its contested presidential election.

“A recount would provide the necessary reassurance to both winners and losers,” the 16-member regional bloc said.

Meanwhile, France and Belgium also challenged the outcome of the presidential election, with France’s foreign minister saying the declared victory of Tshisekedi was “not consistent” with the results and that his rival Fayulu appeared to have won.

Now, with this many organisations and actors vocally disputing the results of the election, everyone is waiting to see what is going to happen next. 

Will Tshisekedi agree to take over the presidency – which, given the circumstances, will be little more than a symbolic role – or will he demand a recount? Could he call another election?

A recount is unlikely to occur and if it does, it is unlikely to produce a different result. And a repeat of the election is equally unlikely as it would cause major difficulties for the Congolese political edifice. So Tshisekedi is most likely to ignore all the controversy surrounding his victory and take over the presidency in the coming days. 

So what is Fayulu going to do? How far will he go to reclaim what he calls “his stolen victory”?

While the opposition leader’s game plan is not yet fully clear, it is becoming obvious that his Lamuka coalition will survive to fight another day. The Lamuka coalition appeared to be the biggest loser in the election, however, it is well known that this group is still a major threat to Kabila’s FCC coalition and is likely to be a stronger opposition force in parliament than Tshisekedi’s UDPS.

What will all this mean for the DRC’s democracy?

Because Kabila will be in the Senate and his coalition will most likely hold onto important government departments, if things stay as they are, Felix Tshisekedi will be the first President in the Congolese political history since the time of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba to face a serious countervailing power. This is why, even though things are undoubtedly murky and messy, we may be witnessing the genesis of political checks and balances in the Congo. If the current political tripod – the FCC, Lamuka and UDPS – are serious about securing the future of the Congolese democracy, they may transform this problematic situation into an opportunity to start laying down the foundations of a new political equilibrium. Yes, Martin Fayulu will lose; yes, Tshisekedi’s presidency will be relatively or substantially weak, but if they all play their cards right, down the road, the Congolese people may begin to win. 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.  


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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic





TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

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Canada: Significant Changes To Canada’s Federal Environmental Protection Regime Proposed





On April 13, 2021, the government of Canada proposed significant changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (“CEPA”)1 through the introduction of Bill C-28, Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act (the “Amendments“).2

With these Amendments, the government hopes to modernize Canada’s environmental regime which has not undergone significant change in over 20 years. CEPA is the primary statute through which the federal government regulates and protects the environment. CEPA and its accompanying regulations regulate among other things the treatment and disposal of chemicals and hazardous waste, vehicle and engine emissions, equipment and other sources of pollution, and the prevention and impact of environmental emergencies such as oil and chemical spills.

This bulletin provides an overview of the major changes to CEPA that have been proposed.

The Right to a Healthy Environment and Certain Soft Rights

Significantly, the Preamble under the Amendments will officially recognize Canadians’ right to a healthy environment. Section 2 of CEPA will require the government to protect that right when making decisions relating to the environment.3

The Amendments set out specific obligations the government must undertake to safeguard this right, including developing an implementation framework to set out how this right will be considered in the administration of CEPA as well as conducting research, studies and monitoring activities to support this goal.

In addition, the Preamble will recognize some additional considerations, including confirming the government’s commitment to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as well as recognizing the importance of considering vulnerable persons, reducing or replacing the use of animal testing, and the right of Canadians to have access to information on product labels.

Project Impact Assessment

With respect to risk assessments under CEPA, under the new provisions the federal government must consider impacts on vulnerable populations and possible cumulative effects of the proposed conduct. Vulnerable populations will include groups of people with elevated biological susceptibility, such as children, and groups with elevated exposure risks, such an indigenous communities. Consideration of cumulative effects of proposed conduct takes a holistic approach to substance management by considering the compounding risks of exposure to various chemicals during daily life rather than looking at substances on their own.

Chemicals Management

The federal government has identified the management of chemicals as a key target area under the new CEPA.

The Amendments thus propose to overhaul this regime in order to better protect Canadians from the evolving risks of harmful chemicals and pollution. To accomplish this, the government has proposed wide ranging changes relating to risk assessment, public accountability, management of toxic substances and new substances, which are discussed in turn below.

Risk Assessment

The government must consult, develop and publish a Plan of Chemicals Management Priorities which will set out an integrated plan for the risk assessment of various chemical substances currently being used in Canada. The Plan will establish priorities for the management of substances, taking into account a number of factors including among others the views of stakeholders and partners, public comments, the effects on vulnerable populations, the toxicity of the substance, the ability to disrupt biological reproduction or endocrine systems, and whether there are safer and more sustainable alternatives.4 The government will also be empowered to make geographically targeted regulations to address pollution “hot spots”.

Additionally, the Amendments will establish a mechanism through which any person can submit a request to the Minister to assess a substance to determine its toxicity and risk to the environment. The Minister must provide a response within 90 days, indicating whether they intend to assess the substances and their reasons for their decision.

Public Accountability Framework

The Amendments intend to increase transparency and public participation in risk assessments by the government for the categorization and management of potentially toxic chemicals. Currently, CEPA contains a public accountability framework under section 77 and provides time limits for the government to assess substances under sections 91 and 92. However, these provisions only apply to certain risk assessments being conducted by the government such as substances placed on the Domestic Substances List that in the opinion of the Minister present the greatest potential for exposure to Canadians or are persistent or bio-accumulative. The proposed Amendments plan to amend section 77 to expand these transparency and accountability measures to all substance risk assessments for toxic or capable of being toxic substances, with the exception of assessments for new substances.5

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Scientists, Homalco First Nation team up to probe massive B.C. landslide — and its impact on salmon





When the side of a B.C. mountain gave way on Nov. 28, 2020, crashing into a glacier fed lake and creating a 100-metre high tsunami, no one was around to see the destruction or hear the sound of rocks and trees tearing through the valley below. 

But scientists say the force, which was picked up by seismographs across North America, was the equivalent of a 4.9-magnitude earthquake. 

Fortunately, no one was in the slide’s path, but experts believe that a melting glacier likely contributed by making the slope less stable — and climate change means it is a growing risk. 

As more of Canada’s glaciers recede, scientists say there is great interest in finding out what exactly triggered this slide, and how the rocks and sediment have impacted the salmon population of nearby Elliot Creek and Southgate River. 

The mountain, which is located about 220 km north west of Vancouver, is on the traditional territory of the Homalco First Nation. 

It’s an area of remote wilderness, only accessible by air or by boating 80 km up Bute Inlet.

When the slide hit last year, more than 18 million cubic meters of rock barrelled down the slope hitting the lake within 30 seconds. 

“That is the equivalent of all of the cars in Canada coming down the hill at once,” said Marten Geertsema, a geomorphologist who works with the B.C. government studying landslides. 

He is one of several scientists, along with members from the Homalco First Nation, who have been studying the landslide and its cascading environmental impact on the watershed and salmon habitat. 

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