DRC postpones vote result amid tensions

2011-12-09 09:11

Kinshasa – Election officials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) yesterday postponed declaring the winner of the November 28 presidential vote, drawing out fears the result could unleash new conflict in the restive country.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) was originally due to give a complete provisional result on Tuesday, but postponed it to yesterday and then to today, saying it needed more time to cross-check figures sent electronically from around the vast central African state.

“We need to compare the figures received on the results sheets with the ones received by satellite transmission,” said CENI chief Daniel Ngoy Mulunda.

“It’s a huge job and we need to do it to assure the credibility and compliance of the numbers we’re going to announce.”

President Joseph Kabila looks poised to win a new five-year term following constitutional changes in January that scrapped two-round presidential elections for a single-round system.

Kabila, who faced a divided opposition field of 10 candidates, had 49% against 33% for chief rival Etienne Tshisekedi with just over 89% of the votes counted, according to the latest results.

Tshisekedi has rejected those figures and made veiled threats of violence if Kabila, in power since 2001, is declared the winner.

Observers have warned the country risks descending into conflict in the wake of the elections, just the second since back-to-back wars from 1996 to 2003.

The International Crisis Group called yesterday for a post-election mediation process.

“To avert violence, Congolese authorities must take urgent measures to salvage a reasonably representative result out of a badly flawed process.

The United Nations, African Union and European Union must work together to mediate with Congolese leaders a way out of the crisis,” it said.

The election campaign was marred by street fights between rival partisans and deadly police crackdowns on Tshisekedi’s supporters.

Human Rights Watch said at least 18 civilians died in vote-related violence from November 26 to 28, mostly shot dead by Kabila’s presidential guard during a crackdown on a Tshisekedi rally in Kinshasa.

In Kinshasa, police patrols have been out in force and some 20 000 soldiers are on stand-by at military bases.

Police this week used tear gas to disperse potential opposition protests before they could start, chasing away Tshisekedi supporters armed with rocks and petrol bombs.

Other potential flashpoints include Katanga province, a Kabila stronghold that was rocked by deadly rebel attacks on election day, and the provinces of eastern and western Kasai, where Tshisekedi has strong support.

In Lubumbashi, the capital of Katanga, 1 500 police and 64 military police have been dispatched, with army troops in “strategic points”, said provincial interior minister Jean Marie Dikanga Kazadi.

Tshisekedi’s party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), has accused the election commission of faking its numbers and asked it to release results polling centre by polling centre.

International observers have echoed the call, asking for greater transparency.

The supreme court is due to review the provisional result and declare the definitive winner on December 17.

Candidates have two days to contest the outcome at the supreme court, which Tshisekedi is likely to do.

But with the court seen as closely aligned with Kabila – he expanded it from seven to 27 judges at the start of the campaign – many in the country fear the battle will be taken to the streets.

Provisional parliamentary results are due in mid-January.

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