DR Congo election: Officials delay result of presidential vote

Tuesday, 08 Jan, 2019

The United States on Thursday called on CENI to produce accurate results and threatened sanctions against anybody who sought to undermine the process.

The December 30 vote saw 21 candidates run to replace President Joseph Kabila, who has ruled the vast, conflict-ridden country for nearly 18 years.

The electoral commission's statements on Friday were in a letter to the church and were confirmed to The Associated Press by the commission's president, Corneille Nangaa.

"The EU joins calls from the AU election monitoring mission and the AU commission chairperson, among others, to ensure the results conform with the Congolese people's vote", the EU said. And 23 per cent of its observers' reports noted that voting had to be suspended at some point because of troubles with voting machines.

Pre-election polling placed Kabila's preferred candidate, ex-Minister of the Interior Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, significantly behind main opposition candidates, Martin Fayulu and Felix Tshisekedi.

"Now is the time for CENI to affirm that these votes were not cast in vain by ensuring the accurate reporting of election results", the US said.

The cities' residents can vote in March, months after Congo's new president is set to be inaugurated on January 18.

Electoral officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo have postponed the release of the presidential election results despite huge calls for the outcome to be published. Government spokesman Lambert Mende told reporters that the election went smoothly.

The New York Times, citing an unnamed Western diplomat and a presidential adviser, said on Saturday that the church has determined that Fayulu won the election, with a lead of 30 points over Shadary.

President Trump announced Friday evening that US troops had been sent to Gabon to protect USA assets in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is awaiting the first results of its presidential election.

But in a country that has not had a peaceful transition of power since independence from Belgium in 1960, memories of electoral fraud and bogus claims of victory run deep. "It is important that SADC respects the position of the Congolese people in these elections", he said.

Congo's election commission is scolding the Catholic church for saying its data show a clear victor in Sunday's presidential election, asserting that the announcement could incite an "uprising".

"We handle sensitive data and have to handle it responsibly", he said.

Initial results were expected on Sunday but the electoral board (CENI) said they could be delayed because vote counts were slow in arriving. With global concerns growing over the transfer of power in sub-Saharan Africa's largest nation of 80 million people, Western powers have upped pressure on Kinshasa to ensure the vote count is accurate and transparent.

Congo government spokesman Lambert Mende defended its handling of the election, saying public safety concerns justified a decision to cancel voting in the Ebola-hit cities of Beni and Butembo, and cutting internet access until the results were known was meant to stop the spread of false news about the outcome.