Congo’s sur­prise elec­tion re­sult could face court chal­lenge

Out­go­ing pres­i­dent made a back­room deal with win­ner, ri­val can­di­date claims

StarMetro Vancouver - - CANADA & WORLD - Mathilde Bous­sion

KIN­SHASA, CONGO—CONGO ap­peared ready to achieve its first peace­ful trans­fer of power with the sur­prise vic­tory Thurs­day of op­po­si­tion can­di­date Felix Tshisekedi, de­spite clear signs that a ri­val op­po­si­tion leader ac­tu­ally won in a land­slide.

With no protests in the cap­i­tal and lim­ited vi­o­lence else­where in the vast Cen­tral African coun­try, the pop­u­la­tion seemed to be choos­ing sta­bil­ity over cred­i­bil­ity, ac­cept­ing Tshisekedi’s win and the end to Pres­i­dent Joseph Ka­bila’s long and tur­bu­lent rule.

But a court chal­lenge to the re­sults could spin the coun­try into chaos, ob­servers warned.

The in­flu­en­tial Catholic Church, which de­ployed 40,000 ob­servers at all polling sta­tions, said of­fi­cial re­sults did not match its find­ings, and diplo­mats briefed on them said ri­val op­po­si­tion can­di­date Martin Fayulu won eas­ily.

Fayulu al­leges that Ka­bila en­gi­neered a back­room deal with the largely untested Tshisekedi to pro­tect his power base in a coun­try with stag­ger­ing min­eral wealth. An out­spo­ken cam­paigner against Congo’s wide­spread graft — it ranked 161th among 180 coun­tries in Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional’s lat­est in­dex — Fayulu de­nounced the of­fi­cial re­sults as “rob­bery.”

As night fell, scores of po­lice with au­to­matic ri­fles and tear gas launch­ers were po­si­tioned along a road in Kin­shasa lead­ing to the Kingabwa neigh­bour­hood, a Fayulu strong­hold. One ve­hi­cle was filled with mil­i­tary per­son­nel in com­bat gear.

It was not im­me­di­ately clear whether Fayulu would chal­lenge the elec­tion re­sults in court. Can­di­dates have two Sup­port­ers of pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Felix Tshisekedi re­act fol­low­ing the an­nounce­ment of the pro­vi­sional re­sults of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion by the In­de­pen­dent Na­tional Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (CENI) Thurs­day.

days after the an­nounce­ment to file chal­lenges and the con­sti­tu­tional court has seven days to con­sider them be­fore

re­sults are fi­nal.

Care­ful state­ments by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity did not con­grat­u­late Tshisekedi,

merely tak­ing note of of­fi­cial re­sults and urg­ing peace and sta­bil­ity in a coun­try with lit­tle of it. Ob­servers ap­peared to be watch­ing for the re­ac­tions of Fayulu’s sup­port­ers.

Two diplo­mats said all ma­jor elec­tion ob­ser­va­tion mis­sions, in­clud­ing those of the African Union and the South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity, showed sim­i­lar re­sults to those of the Catholic Church. The diplo­mats spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to speak to the press.

Sev­eral Congo an­a­lysts agreed that it ap­peared Ka­bila made a quiet agree­ment with Tshisekedi, say­ing Fayulu would have posed more of a threat.

Britain’s for­eign sec­re­tary said he was “very con­cerned about dis­crep­an­cies” in Congo’s re­sults, adding that the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil would dis­cuss the mat­ter. France’s for­eign min­is­ter cast doubt on the re­sults and Bel­gium’s for­eign min­is­ter ex­pressed con­cern. There was no im­me­di­ate United States com­ment.

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