Congo presidential loser rejects surprise result as ‘coup’

Supporters of Congo’s president-elect celebrated an unlikely win on Thursday, but the runner-up denounced a fix and France, Belgium and the Catholic Church all cast doubt on the results. A chaotic vote in the vast and volatile nation of 80 million people has raised fears of renewed violence, and at least two people were killed in clashes at one town in the west. But most parts of the country were calm. The electoral commission (CENI) announced around 3 a.m. (0200 GMT) that opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi, 55, had won the Dec. 30 vote, edging out another opposition candidate, businessman Martin Fayulu. Fayulu called the results an “electoral coup” engineered by outgoing President Joseph Kabila to deny him the presidency. France said the outcome was at odds with tallies provided by observers from the Catholic Church. These showed Fayulu winning, according to three diplomats briefed on the findings.

UPDATE 1-Congo opposition campaign says talking with Kabila camp on transition

Tshisekedi’s spokesman, Vidiye Tshimanga, later said Kabila and Tshisekedi had not met personally since the election but that their representatives had convened several times. Supporters of Martin Fayulu, the opposition candidate who had a healthy pre-election poll lead, have voiced suspicions Kabila may be looking to negotiate a power-sharing agreement with Tshisekedi if his preferred candidate, Shadary, loses. Barnabe Kikaya Bin Karubi, a spokesman for Shadary and one of Kabila’s senior advisers, denied there had been contacts with Tshisekedi or his representatives. Kabila is due to step down this month after 18 years in power. His refusal to go when his mandate expired in 2016 sparked protests in which security forces killed dozens of people.