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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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 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.