DRC Catholic leaders seek poll re-evaluation
Kinshasa - Members of Democratic Republic of Congo's powerful Catholic clergy on Thursday called for the election commission to re-evaluate "serious errors" in national elections that gave victory to the incumbent president — or failing that, to resign.
A group of 35 bishops said November's vote was badly organised and called on the commission to correct errors in order to regain the population's trust.
International observers have said the election was marred by irregularities and that it is not clear who won the vote in this mineral-rich country impoverished by decades of dictatorship and civil war.
Group secretary-general Abbot Leonard Santedi read the group's statement in the capital, Kinshasa.
They called on the commission "to have the courage to call itself into question, to correct the serious errors that have damaged people's trust in this institution, and if not, to resign".
The Roman Catholic Church holds enormous sway in the overwhelmingly Christian nation.
Incumbent Joseph Kabila was declared the winner of the presidential seat by the Supreme Court and inaugurated in December despite the fraud condemned by the international community.
Kabila was declared victorious over opposition challenger Etienne Tshisekedi following constitutional reforms he pushed through parliament limiting the election to one round. Under the old rules, any winner had to have more than 50% of votes.
Tshisekedi has declared himself the poll's winner and held his own inauguration ceremony days after Kabila's.
"As a Congolese and a Christian, I am satisfied with this message, because the problem in Congo is not between Tshisekedi and Kabila, it's a problem between lies and truth, cheating and honesty, love and selfishness," said Albert Moleka, a spokesperson for Tshisekedi.
The commission is still computing results from the accompanying legislative vote.
Observers also noted instances of possible fraud but said there did not appear to be a systematic pattern which would have changed the outcome of the election. The largest observation mission was organized by the clergy which dispatched a team of 30 000 election monitors, who were present in over 20% of the 60 000 polling stations.
The November election was only the second democratic vote in Congo's 51-year history, and the first to be organised by the Congolese government rather than by the international community.
Congo is sub-Saharan Africa's largest country and has been ravaged by conflict. The country's east is still wracked by violence perpetrated by dozens of militia and rebel groups.
Even though DRC is the size of Western Europe, it remains one of the globe's most impoverished nations recently listed dead last on the United Nations worldwide index of human development.