Catholic Church rejects Congo vote result, loser decries ‘coup’
CONGO’S Catholic Church, one of the country’s most respected institutions, challenged Thursday’s official results from a chaotic presidential election, suggesting its tally did not give victory to opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi.
Though bishops stopped short of naming a winner, the announcement sets up a potential showdown with President Joseph Kabila’s government over a poll many fear could provoke more violence in the vast and volatile nation of 80 million people.
The electoral commission (Ceni) announced overnight that Mr Tshisekedi, 55, had won the December 30 vote, edging out another challenger, businessman Martin Fayulu.
“The results from the presidential 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 observers said in a statement.
Both France and Belgium also expressed doubts. And three diplomats briefed on the findings of the 40,000-strong Catholic observer mission said they showed Mr Fayulu winning.
Anger over the results, and the Fayulu camp’s suspicions Mr Tshisekedi won by cutting a power-sharing deal with Mr Kabila, have cast a cloud over what is meant to be Congo’s first democratic transfer of power in 59 years of independence.
In contrast to previous polls, election officials did not provide a regional breakdown of the results.
Mr Fayulu may appeal to Congo’s constitutional court.
By contrast, Mr Kabila’s handpicked candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, who finished a distant third, conceded.
“Of course we are not happy as our candidate lost but the Congolese people have chosen,” Mr Shadary’s spokesman Barnabe Kikaya Bin Karubi said.
Mr Tshisekedi’s win raises questions over the future of Mr Kabila, who has governed since his father’s assassination in 2001 and overstayed the official end of his mandate by two years.
Mr Kabila says he wants to remain involved in politics and may run again in 2023, when he will no longer be term-limited.
Mr Tshisekedi inherited the leadership of the UDPS party when his father, Etienne, died in 2017. But he lacks the experience, political clout and firebrand reputation his father earned campaigning for democracy under three successive presidents.
No details of any deal have emerged. But in the run-up to the results, Mr Tshisekedi said Mr Kabila had nothing to fear should he come to power, comments analysts interpreted as efforts to reassure the president and his supporters that interests accumulated over two decades in power were not at risk.
Members of Mr Tshisekedi’s UDPS party called the election a historic triumph in a struggle for democracy.
The inauguration had been scheduled for Friday.