Congo presidential loser rejects surprise result as ‘coup’

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. 

Felix Tshisekedi. Photo: RR
Felix Tshisekedi. Photo: RR

AIWA! NO!| – 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.

Publicly, the church said its tally did not match official results.

Anger over the results, and particularly the Fayulu camp’s suspicions that Tshisekedi won by cutting a power-sharing deal with Kabila, could cast a cloud over what is meant to be Congo’s first democratic transfer of power in 59 years of independence.

Tshisekedi’s camp has acknowledged contact with Kabila’s representatives since the election but said they were aimed at ensuring a peaceful transition and denied a deal.

In contrast to previous polls, election officials did not provide a regional breakdown of the results.

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

Congo opposition campaign says talking with Kabila camp on transition
A Congolese presidential candidate’s representatives have met with outgoing President Joseph Kabila’s camp to ensure a peaceful transfer of power, they said on Tuesday. 

* Point is to ensure peaceful handover -Tshisekedi campaign

* Provisional results of Dec. 30 vote due later this week

* Tensions rise amid accusations of government vote rigging

* Observer mission says it saw “major” irregularities in vote (Adds observer mission report)

By Giulia Paravicini and Stanis Bujakera

KINSHASA, Jan 8 (Reuters) – A Congolese presidential candidate’s representatives have met with outgoing President Joseph Kabila’s camp to ensure a peaceful transfer of power, they said on Tuesday.

President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Joseph Kabila sits in a garden at his personal ranch on December 10, 2018 in Kinshasa. (Photo by John WESSELS / AFP)
President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Joseph Kabila sits in a garden at his personal ranch on December 10, 2018 in Kinshasa. (Photo by John WESSELS / AFP)

Kabila’s camp denied any such meetings had occurred since the Dec. 30 election, for which provisional results are expected this week, but supporters of another candidate, who led opinion polls ahead of the vote, said they feared the government was manoeuvring to squeeze him out of contention.

Members of opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi’s campaign said they had spoken with representatives of Kabila’s hand-picked candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, in meetings aimed at promoting national reconciliation.

Kabila and Tshisekedi “have an interest in meeting to prepare for the peaceful and civilised transfer of power,” Jean-Marc Kabund told a news conference at which he said Tshisekedi was the “presumptive winner”.

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.

The election is meant to bring about Congo’s first democratic transition in 59 years of independence, but a disputed result could trigger the kind of violence that erupted after 2006 and 2011 elections and destabilise Congo’s eastern borderlands with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, where dozen of militia groups are active.

The streets of the eastern city of Goma were deserted on Tuesday evening after a rumour spread that the results were about to be announced. The election board has not given a date for the release of results, which have already been delayed past Sunday’s deadline.

On Tuesday, domestic observer mission SYMOCEL said it witnessed 52 major irregularities, including people tampering with results, in the 101 vote counting centres it monitored. There are 179 counting centres tallying the vote across Congo.

Its findings, and those of a Catholic Church observation mission that noted significant irregularities, are likely to fuel complaints about the outcome once it is announced.

In its own news conference on Tuesday, the ruling coalition accused Fayulu’s campaign and Catholic bishops of trying to stoke post-election violence.

Last week, the bishops said they knew the winner of the election, a declaration widely seen as a warning to authorities against rigging the vote. (Writing by Aaron Ross Editing by Robin Pomeroy)


Congo’s presidential vote: Delays and Storms Hamper Election

eNCA
Men wait in line to cast their vote at a polling station in Kinshasa, Democratic
Men wait in line to cast their vote at a polling station in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, December 30, 2018. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Delays, storms mar start to Congo’s presidential vote
Voting in Democratic Republic of Congo’s long-anticipated presidential election got off to a shaky start on Sunday due to torrential rain in the capital, long delays at some polling stations and broken-down machines. 

KINSHASA |REUTERS|AIWA! NO!| – Voting in Democratic Republic of Congo’s long-anticipated presidential election got off to a shaky start on Sunday due to torrential rain in the capital, long delays at some polling stations and broken-down machines.

Image result for Delays, storms mar start to Congo's presidential vote

The StandardDelays, storms mar start to Congo’s presidential vote

Three opposition strongholds will see no casting of ballots at all after the authorities canceled the vote there, citing health risks from an ongoing Ebola outbreak and ethnic violence.

President Joseph Kabila, in power since his father’s assassination in 2001, is due to step down after the vote in the first democratic transition for a country plagued by authoritarian rule, coups and civil wars since independence from Belgium in 1960.

Kabila voted early in the morning in the capital Kinshasa at the same school as the candidate he is backing, former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, whom the latest opinion polls showed trailing two opposition candidates.

“My only concern is that we have this very heavy rain and probably voter turnout might be low, but hopefully the skies will clear, and the voters will turn out in numbers,” Kabila, wearing a dark blue suit, told reporters.

In the eastern city of Goma, where the weather was clear, a Reuters witness saw residents casting their votes, but another polling station in the city was still closed 90 minutes after polls opened at 6 a.m (0400 GMT).

“The majority of voters here are stressed,” said Kayembe Mvita Dido, first in a line of dozens waiting at a polling station in the shadows of the towering Nyiragongo volcano.

“Some do not even know how to use the voting machine,” he said, referring to a new electronic voting system, criticized by the opposition as vulnerable to fraud.

Several machines broke down Kinshasa, Goma and Bukavu, bringing voting in those polling stations to a halt, witnesses said. Some voters complained they could not find their names on the rolls.

Streets in Kinshasa were also flooded due to a violent storm that appeared to have knocked out the power in two polling stations visited by Reuters, although that should not affect the machines whose batteries are meant to be charged ahead of time.

Despite repeated delays to the election, which was originally meant to take place in 2016, diplomats and poll observers have said authorities are ill-prepared, raising fears of a repeat of the violence that followed elections in 2006 and 2011.

Congo (DRC) cartoonist prepares to sketch a new president

Thembo Kashauri has sketched some of the most scathing parodies of Joseph Kabila, yet Congo’s best-known political cartoonist has mixed feelings about the taciturn president’s impending departure after nearly two decades in power. 

KINSHASA- |Reuters|AIWA! NO!|Thembo Kashauri has sketched some of the most scathing parodies of Joseph Kabila, yet Congo’s best-known political cartoonist has mixed feelings about the taciturn president’s impending departure after nearly two decades in power.

Image result for Congo cartoonist prepares to sketch a new president

Thembo Kashauri, Democratic Republic of Congo’s best-known political cartoonist signs his name on a drawing in an office in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, December 26, 2018. Picture taken December 26, 2018. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

“He had an atypical personality for a head of state but he inspired a lot of my drawings,” the cartoonist known as Kash said in his cramped studio cluttered with old computer equipment in the capital Kinshasa.

“His silences were so eloquent that the fact he didn’t speak much said a lot,” he said of Kabila, who has governed Democratic Republic of Congo since his father’s assassination in 2001.

After Kabila finally agreed not to defy presidential term limits by standing in Sunday’s election, Kash drew a weeping Joseph with his signature salt-and-pepper beard and thick head of hair being comforted by South Africa’s president.

“Power is life,” sobs Kabila as Cyril Ramaphosa reassures him there is life after the presidency.

The election, which has turned into a race between Kabila’s favoured candidate and two main opposition challengers, could lead to Congo’s first democratic transfer of power after decades marked by armed conflicts.

But the poll, which is already two years late because Kabila refused to go when his mandate expired, has been marred by killings on the campaign trail and opposition outcry after the electoral commission cancelled the vote in several of their strongholds, citing security and health concerns.

Congo opposition areas excluded from presidential election

Three Congo opposition areas excluded from presidential election
Three Congo opposition areas excluded from presidential election

Three opposition areas have been excluded from the presidential election on security and health grounds, officials said. The move is bound to inflame political tensions.

|AIWA! NO!|Three Congo opposition areas excluded from presidential election
Voters in three Congolese cities known as opposition strongholds will be excluded from presidential elections on security and health grounds, officials said, in a move that looks certain to inflame political tensions before Sunday’s ballot.

FILE PHOTO: People walk past an electoral campaign billboard of Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, former Congolese Interior Minister and now presidential candidate, in Beni, North Kivu Province of Democratic Republic of Congo, December 20, 2018. REUTERS/Samuel Mambo/File Photo

|AIWA! NO!|The electoral commission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) said on Wednesday that it was postponing Sunday’s presidential and legislative elections in three cities until next March.

Two of the cities — Beni and Butembo, located in the eastern part of the central African nation — have been dealing with an Ebola outbreak since August. The third, the southwestern city of Yumbi, was the site of ethnic violence that killed more than 100 people last week.

Read more: Opinion: DR Congo election postponement deals further blow to voter confidence

Elections, which were delayed nationwide by a week earlier this month, will go ahead as planned elsewhere in the DRC. The polls, in which voters will choose a successor to longtime President Joseph Kabila, have already been delayed for more than two years. The mineral-rich country has never had a peaceful transfer of power since gaining independence in 1997.

The final results of the presidential election are set to be announced on January 15, with the new president to be sworn in on January 18. The delayed elections in Beni, Butembo and Yumbi will prevent their votes from counting in the presidential contest.Watch video03:34

People pin hopes on democracy in war-torn Congo

Targeting the opposition?

Beni and Butembo are known as hotbeds for opposition to Kabila, who has led the country for nearly two years. Leading opposition candidate Martin Fayulu had warned the electoral commission from further delaying elections in a tweet earlier Wednesday.

“The pretext of Ebola is fallacious because there has been campaigning in these areas. It’s yet another strategy to hijack the truth of the polls,” wrote Fayulu, leader of DRC’s Engagement for Citizenship and Development party.