Troops on standby as DRC result delayed
Kinshasa - Troops patrolled Kinshasa on Wednesday as the DRC faced two more days of waiting for the full results of an election that has sparked protests abroad and raised fears of a fresh explosion of violence.
President Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001, looked on track for another five-year term in the single-round race, leading top rival Etienne Tshisekedi 49 to 33% in results announced on Tuesday and based on 89% of polling centres.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) said late on Tuesday it needed more time to compile final results from around the country, which is two-thirds the size of Western Europe ranked last in the UN's development index.
It promised a full count within 48 hours.
Tshisekedi has rejected partial results showing Kabila in the lead and made veiled threats of violence if the incumbent is declared the winner.
In Kinshasa, police fired shots in the air and used teargas on Wednesday to disperse dozens of Tshisekedi supporters in the west of the city, where the young "fighters", as the veteran opposition leader calls his backers, had blocked the street with rocks.
In Kintambo neighbourhood, police chased away a group of protesters allegedly trying to set fire to the church where CENI chief Daniel Ngoy Mulunda is a Methodist pastor.
Some 20 000 soldiers are on stand-by at bases in Kinshasa, and the normally bustling city of 10 million people remained unusually quiet.
Tension on the rise
Observers said the delay will only ratchet up tensions that have been growing since an election marred by chaos and rioting at polling centres, rebel attacks in the southeastern city of Lubumbashi, and a deadly police crackdown on Tshisekedi's supporters on the last day of the campaign.
"Tension is on the rise since voting day," said Thierry Vircoulon, central Africa director for the International Crisis Group, which has put the Democratic Republic of Congo on its "conflict risk alert" list.
"People are getting sceptical. When you reach a certain level of disorganisation, people wonder if the process is really free and fair and if there's no manipulation behind the scenes," he told AFP.
Kabila's five-year term officially expired on Tuesday, but the constitution says he remains head of state until the next president is inaugurated.
Tshisekedi's party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), said it will "tolerate" the final result delay, but reiterated its criticisms of the vote count, calling for results to be released for every individual polling centre.
UDPS secretary general Jacquemin Shabani called the partial results "biased, opaque and irresponsible".
Tensions have also spilled over into the Congolese diaspora.
In London, some 300 protesters accusing Western countries of backing Kabila clashed with police on Tuesday outside Prime Minister David Cameron's residence.
Two people were treated for injuries and 17 were arrested on suspicion of obstructing a highway, a Scotland Yard spokesperson said.
In Toronto, some 150 protesters swarmed a police car and dirt was thrown at officers, prompting an emergency radio call for back-up.
Protesters by Congolese expatriates have also turned violent in Paris, Johannesburg and Pretoria, and in Brussels, where nearly 100 Tshisekedi supporters were arrested, according to the Belga news agency.
The elections are just the second since back-to-back wars from 1996 to 2003 in a country ranked last on the UN's development index despite a wealth of cobalt, copper, diamonds and gold.
The supreme court has until December 17 to review the result and declare the official winner. Provisional parliamentary results are due in mid-January.
The next president is due to be sworn in December 20.