The Problems With The Financial Times Story Declaring Fayulu "Clear Winner" of Congo Vote

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Manufacturing consent?

[Commentary]

Under the banner headline "Congo voting data reveal huge fraud in poll to replace Kabila," the Financial Times Tuesday reported that "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 FT explained: "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."

What if and when CENI releases all data, and if they confirm that Tshisekedi did win as CENI maintains, what will the FT do? How would it undo the damage arising from the publication of the article? 

Let's examine some pertinent questions arising from the FT's article that should interest everyone who cares about the truth about the outcome of Congo's December 30, 2018 elections:

1. CENCO, comprising the Catholic church's bishops' conference, has only partial elections data by its own admission. The FT reports that CENCO’s data represents only 43% of the turnout. Yet since the elections, the major media outlets have cited CENCO as the authority on the DRC elections, implying that it had all the elections data. CENCO has represented and maintained that impression as well. Is this truly responsible journalism?

2. CENCO deployed 40,000 observers at 22,000 out of 84,000 polling stations. CENCO was an observer and not an accredited witness. So CENCO wasn't entitled to the signed official elections returns from each of the polling stations. Where, then, did it obtain its partial election data from? CENCO could not have been in a position to "gather" data. CENCO must publish its data --in they do exists-- to dispel any speculation, especially now that they have been reported on by the FT.

3. The FT states that the large data it analyzed was “obtained from the electoral commission’s central database before the results were announced.” Who, precisely, obtained the data and can the data be trusted? It could not have been obtained legally. In terms of authentication FT cites one person; that person is "close to Mr Fayulu’s camp" and "asked for anonymity.."

4. Even Fayulu himself indirectly and inadvertently questions the integrity and reliability of CENCO's data. Immediately after the vote, Fayulu claimed that he had won by 47%. More recently, Fayulu has claimed that he won by 61% of the votes. If Felix Tshisekedi had claimed that he won by "either 47% or 61%" it's likely the major media outlets, including FT, would use such statements to question his credibility.

The FT also provides two conflicting figures for Fayulu: that he won by 59.4% based on the big database it analyzed, and by 62.8% based on CENCO’s partial data.

5. The FT confirms that CENCO's data underestimated the final votes by 5 million votes. FT acknowledges that even the larger data the media outlet analyzed amounted to 15.7 million out of the 18.3 million. As for these 2.6 million votes the FT assures the world that "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." This is a stunning observation from an international newspaper --a financial one at that.

What other inconvenient gaps that the reader isn't aware of that FT might have wished away in its "analysis"?

6. CENCO has not published or publicly disclosed its data. Yet Fayulu seems to have an intimate knowledge of CENCO’s data. If in fact Fayulu's CENCO's data are derived from CENI's then FT's analysis amounts to comparing CENCO's data to CENCO's data (or CENI's data to CENI's data). If CENCO privately shared its data with Fayulu or with people close to him why not publish them in the interest of truth and transparency? As a result of this secrecy, we have a situation where all the data used or relied upon by the FT and other major media outlets are “dark data”; data obtained from sources that aren't transparent or verifiable.

7. While the elections figures presented by Fayulu and CENCO keep shifting, the only thing that has remained constant throughout is the unwavering commitment of the major media outlets to present Fayulu as the winner. This is remarkable commitment to a politician who, until December 29, the day before the vote, had never polled above 8% in any public opinion poll in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

8. CENCO's leadership can dispel some of the confusion by hosting a press conference and fielding questions from reporters rather than picking and choosing journalists from media outlets that may be driven by hidden agenda. It's no secret that powerful mining interests believe that Fayulu, who is backed by two disqualified candidates Jean-Pierre Bemba and Moise Katumbi, would be more willing to undo the new taxes on strategic minerals that Kabila signed into law last year.

Therefore, based on these questions raised, is it not reasonable for people who believe in the integrity of numbers to wonder how the FT could've arrived as such a definitive conclusion --that Fayulu was the "clear winner" of the December 30, 2018 Presidential election in Congo-- based on non-definitive information? 

Isn't it also clear coincidence that CENCO claimed, even before CENI  announced the results, that there was a "clear winner," and then suddenly at some point The New York Times and now FT and other media have been using the exact same phrase?

Good journalism must raise serious questions and guide us toward truth. What do we call journalism that make declarations without the facts to support them?

 

 

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