In coming days, the Supreme Court in the Democratic Republic of Congo will endorse fictitious results from presidential polls. These gave Joseph Kabila, the 40-year-old incumbent, victory with 49 per cent of the vote. The electoral commission gave his closest rival, Etienne Tshisekedi, just 32 per cent. No one should be fooled.

Even in a country as remote as Congo it is difficult to rig an election without leaving a trail. Too many eyes are watching and phones ringing. The Carter Centre, which provided the only reliable international monitoring, has condemned the outcome as “lacking credibility”. It notes that turnout in some Kabila strongholds was impossibly high. Results from thousands of polling stations on opposition turf were lost. The Catholic church, which deployed 30,000 observers, also cried foul.

Mr Tshisekedi reckons he won with 52 per cent. With discrepancies on this scale it is difficult to tell what the real numbers were. What is certain is that public suspicion is so widespread that Mr Kabila’s legitimacy is at issue.

In these circumstances, appeals by the UN for calm while due process is followed are either naive or disingenuous. Like the electoral commission, the Supreme Court, which must sign off on the tally, is an instrument of Mr Kabila and his predatory elite. There is no reason the Congolese should expect either institution to do an honest job.

Britain funded this charade with £31m, the European Union with €47m, and the UN with $110m. They have all raised concerns. But the international community does not favour Mr Tshisekedi. Instead it is ready to choose the option perceived as safest: supporting the status quo.

Yet Mr Kabila’s rule has been terrible. His people have the world’s lowest living standards. He did well to make peace with neighbouring Rwanda, thereby eliminating one cause of the 1998-2003 war. But the dubious mining deals he has signed have cost Congo an estimated $5bn. He has got away with that. He should not be allowed to get away with fraud.

If a semblance of integrity is to be salvaged, the UN and African Union must insist that results are published for each polling station so that figures can be audited. Polls should be rerun in opposition areas where the count was barred. Mr Kabila may succeed in suppressing unrest. But longer term a rigged election will be disastrous for faltering UN efforts at promoting peace. The world should beware of complicity.

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