DR Congo's powerful Catholic Church challenges official election result

12 January, 2019, 08:58 | Author: Angel Logan
  • The Latest: US to citizens in Congo: 'Depart the country'

Félix Tshisekedi is the Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC) president elect.

For a while, it looked like Tshisekedi's name would not even be on the ballot.

The Democratic Republic of Congo's opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi was on Thursday named the provisional victor of a long-awaited presidential poll paving the way for the crisis-hit country's first transfer of power in 18 years.

Mr Fayulu's supporters say this backs their suspicion that Mr Tshisekedi has cut a power-sharing deal with Mr Kabila.

At least two people died in the melee, a local journalist and a United Nations source said.

But his opposition rival Martin Fayulu immediately cried foul, branding the results "an electoral coup".

The DRC's Catholic Church, he argued, had reached the same conclusion after garnering data from its 40,000 election observers across the country.

While bishops stopped short of publishing their own results or saying who they believed was the true victor, they made clear it wasn't Tshisekedi, as declared by election commission CENI. "They have stolen the Congolese people's victory and the people will never accept that".

The DRC has never known a peaceful transition of power since independence from Belgium in 1960, and this election has been watched closely for any sign that the country could be thrust further into political chaos.

The candidate he hand-picked to succeed him, loyalist, former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, came third in the poll. Some protest violence was reported in Kikwit, a Fayulu stronghold, where police said three people were killed.

Speaking to thousands of cheering supporters in the capital Kinshasa, Tshisekedi said he would be the president "of all Congolese".

Pouring onto the streets, they celebrated wildly, cheering and honking vehicle horns in scenes of joy that lasted into the morning under the bemused eye of the security forces who had fanned out across the capital.

"How long are we going to negotiate results?" he asked.

There is increasing tension in the country as many claim the results of the elections do not reflect the polling station and pre-election data.

Kabila said before the vote he planned to remain involved in politics and could not rule out running again for president in 2023 when he will no longer be term-limited.

Abroad, the mood was watchful, marked by a noticeable lack of congratulations for Tshisekedi.

However, most parts of the country appear to be calm.

"It really seems that the declared results ... are not consistent with the true results", French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a French television channel.

The African Union called Thursday for any dispute over the Democratic Republic of Congo's election result to be resolved in a peaceful manner, and through dialogue.

Fayulu has also openly disputed the results, calling the poll an "electoral coup".

In contrast, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, one of the key players on the continent, urged interested parties to "refrain from speculation and allow CENI to complete the process". There were other organisations monitoring the elections, such as the Southern African Development Community, but it isn't clear yet if they agree or disagree with the electoral commission's provisional election results.

The DRC - a vast and poor country burdened by a history of bloodshed - has been in the grip of a two-year crisis over the succession of President Joseph Kabila, who said last year he would finally step down after almost two decades as leader.

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