Church re­jects shock Congo poll ver­dict as loser de­clares it a coup

The Weekend Australian - - WORLD -

KIN­SHASA: The Catholic Church has re­jected the of­fi­cial re­sult of the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and the loser de­nounced a “coup”, dash­ing hopes the coun­try could stage the first un­con­tested trans­fer of power in its 59 years of in­de­pen­dence.

Elec­toral of­fi­cials have pro­claimed op­po­si­tion fig­ure Felix Tshisekedi the vic­tor to re­place Joseph Ka­bila, who has ruled Congo for 18 years.

Pre-elec­tion polls had pre­dict- ed a land­slide win for an­other op­po­si­tion leader, Martin Fayulu.

Mr Fayu­lul is backed by ex­iled politi­cians and for­mer mili­tia lead­ers with in­flu­ence in the vi­o­lent east.

Mr Fayulu’s sup­port­ers say the au­thor­i­ties rigged the re­sult on be­half of Mr Tshisekedi as part of a deal to pro­tect fig­ures from the out­go­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion.

At least four peo­ple were re­ported killed in demon­stra­tions in one eastern city, although much of the rest of the coun­try ap­peared calm.

The Catholic Church’s in­ter­ven­tion could make it harder for Mr Tshisekedi to win broad ac­cep­tance as the first leader to come to power through the bal­lot box since prime min­is­ter Pa­trice Lu­mumba was over­thrown in a coup less than three months af­ter in­de­pen­dence in 1960.

Con­golese fear that a dis­pute over the poll could restart a cy­cle of vi­o­lence in a coun­try where civil wars caus­ing hunger and dis­ease have killed mil­lions of peo­ple since the 1990s.

The Catholic Church is widely ven­er­ated across the coun­try of 80 mil­lion and is be­lieved to have ac­cu­rate elec­tion data gath­ered by a 40,000-strong team of elec­tion ob­servers, who tal­lied re­sults dis­played at in­di­vid­ual polling sta­tions.

While bish­ops stopped short of pub­lish­ing their own re­sults or say­ing who they be­lieved was the true win­ner, they made clear it wasn’t Mr Tshisekedi, as de­clared by elec­tion com­mis­sion CENI.

“The re­sults from the pres­i­den- tial elec­tion as pub­lished by CENI do not cor­re­spond to the data col­lected by our ob­ser­va­tion mis­sion from polling sta­tions and vote counts,” the Na­tional Epis­co­pal Con­fer­ence of Congo said.

Three diplo­mats briefed on the church mis­sion’s tally said it showed Mr Fayulu had won.

French For­eign Min­is­ter JeanYves Le Drian de­manded clar­ity on re­sults that were “the op­po­site to what we ex­pected”.

Bri­tish For­eign Sec­re­tary Jeremy Hunt tweeted he was “very con­cerned” about dis­crep­an­cies in the re­sults and that the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil would dis­cuss it.

Mr Fayulu, who has led antigov­ern­ment demon­stra­tions and is seen as far more hos­tile to the out­go­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion than Mr Tshisekedi, said Mr Ka­bila had en­gi­neered an “elec­toral coup” to deny him the pres­i­dency.

In Kik­wit, 500km from Kin­shasa, crowds of Fayulu sup­port­ers at­tacked sym­bols of gov­ern­ment and clashed with se­cu­rity forces.


Sup­port­ers of Felix Tshisekedi cel­e­brate in Kin­shasa

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