Risk of fresh tensions as Congo delays announcing results of presidential election

Saul Bowman
January 8, 2019

The opposition has expressed concern that the vote could be stolen by Kabila, who had delayed elections for two years after the end of his second and final term.

The church deployed some 40,000 electoral observers. The State Department noted the reported troubles on election day and said results should be compiled transparently, with observers present, so that the votes of millions of people "were not cast in vain". In 2006, Kabila defeated former warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba in a violence-tainted poll, and five years later, he was re-elected in another vote blighted by bloodshed, chaotic organisation and alleged irregularities.

US President Donald Trump said on Friday that American military personnel had been deployed to Gabon in response to possible violent demonstrations in the Democratic Republic of Congo after a presidential election there.

"We are surprised by the allegations of 'systematically violating legal provisions relating to the organisation of elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, '" wrote Marcel Utembi Tapa, president of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (Cenco).

The Congolese election commission said Thursday that logistical problems may force it to postpone publication of provisional results, which are due by Sunday.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) had promised to announce preliminary results on Sunday, followed by a definitive count on January 15.

The Electoral Commission (CENI), the only body mandated to announce the victor said they are still counting the votes and urged all parties to remain calm.

"Those who undermine the democratic process, threaten the peace, security or stability of the DRC, or benefit from corruption may find themselves not welcome in the United States and cut off from the U.S. financial system", the State Department said.

Within hours the DRC's powerful Roman Catholic Church, which had deployed thousands of election observers, declared that it knew who had won from its own monitoring of the tally.

While Congo has been largely calm on and after the December 30 vote, President Donald Trump informed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that about 80 military personnel and "appropriate combat equipment" had been deployed to neighbouring Gabon to support the security of USA citizens and staffers and diplomatic facilities.

More than 40 million voters registered to participate in the presidential and parliamentary elections expected to see a peaceful transfer of power since the largest central African nation gained independence in 1960. Election monitors from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) said in their report that presidential election "went relatively well" despite chaotic scenes that prevented many from voting.

"Now more than ever the Congolese people need assurance that the authorities are genuinely committed to the respect for human rights and allowing people to access information from diverse sources and communicate freely is a key part of that".

Mende said the government had cut the Internet until the election results were published to stop the opposition, journalists and others on social media from publishing fake results that could spark violence. The opposition, represented by its two main candidates Martin Fayulu and Felix Tshisekedi, and Shadary's camp have all claimed they are on course to win, without posting specific figures.

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