Congo elec­tion run­ner-up to press fraud dis­pute in court

Stabroek News - - World News -

KIN­SHASA, (Reuters) - The run­ner-up in Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion said yes­ter­day he in fact won a land­slide vic­tory with more than 60 per­cent of votes and will file a for­mal fraud com­plaint.

The vote was in­tended as Congo’s first demo­cratic trans­fer of power in six decades, but in­stead threat­ens to reawaken vi­o­lence in the huge and tu­mul­tuous na­tion where mil­lions have died dur­ing civil wars since the 1990s.

“When you know you are in the right, you are not al­lowed to re­main home,” Martin Fayulu said, urg­ing sup­port­ers to “rise up” and con­test the re­sults with him.

Though pre-elec­tion polls pre­dicted a land­slide for Fayulu, a busi­ness­man and for­mer man­ager at Exxon Mo­bil, the na­tional elec­tion board, CENI, said he lost to an­other op­po­si­tion can­di­date, Felix Tshisekedi, 55.

Fayulu’s camp said on Fri­day its tally showed he won 62 per­cent of votes, to Tshisekedi’s 19 per­cent.

His sup­port­ers believe author­i­ties rigged the re­sult in a deal to pro­tect mem­bers of Pres­i­dent Joseph Ka­bila’s out­go­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion and main­tain his in­flu­ence over se­cu­rity forces.

The in­flu­en­tial Catholic Church has also re­jected the of­fi­cial re­sult based on tal­lies by its bish­ops con­fer­ence’s (CENCO) 40,000-strong ob­server mis­sion. France and for­mer colo­nial power Bel­gium also ex­pressed doubts.

In com­ments to the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil via tele­con­fer­ence on Fri­day, CENI pres­i­dent Corneille Nan­gaa de­fended the vote’s cred­i­bil­ity and at­tacked CENCO.

“I’d be very in­ter­ested to know what party they work for,” said Nan­gaa. “I chal­lenge any­one to say they have the pre­ten­sion to have col­lected all the vote tal­lies.”

CENCO pres­i­dent Mar­cel Utembi, at the same ta­ble as Nan­gaa at U.N. head­quar­ters in Kin­shasa, told the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil the bish­ops’ mis­sion was in­de­pen­dent and its con­clu­sions were based on tally sheets rep­re­sent­ing 72 per­cent of bal­lots.

CENCO has not stated pub­licly who it be­lieves won the elec­tion, but three diplo­mats briefed on its find­ings told Reuters it had de­ter­mined Fayulu was the clear win­ner.

The head of the U.N. peace­keep­ing mis­sion in Congo, Leila Zer­rougui, said pre­lim­i­nary re­ports from her mis­sion and other ob­servers all in­di­cated the vote “hap­pened sat­is­fac­to­rily de­spite the tech­ni­cal, lo­gis­ti­cal and se­cu­rity prob­lem”.

Yet in­ter­nal U.N. re­ports seen by Reuters noted al­le­ga­tions of ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties across the coun­try, in­clud­ing mili­tia fighters re­port­edly forc­ing vot­ers to select can­di­dates from the rul­ing coali­tion. An­other do­mes­tic ob­server mis­sion said it wit­nessed vote tam­per­ing and other “ma­jor” ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties.

“It seems im­por­tant to us to ex­hort our part­ners and friendly coun­tries to not throw fuel on the fire by spec­u­lat­ing about the re­sult, but to work for the con­sol­i­da­tion of democ­racy and peace,” said Congo’s U.N. am­bas­sador, Ig­nace Gata Mavita wa Lufuta.

Fayulu’s camp said it would raise these is­sues with Congo’s high­est court on Satur­day morn­ing. It has asked the elec­tion board to pub­lish re­sults from ev­ery polling sta­tion.

“We know the Con­sti­tu­tional Court is com­posed of Ka­bila’s peo­ple, but we do not want to give any

chance to Ka­bila and his team to say ... you didn’t fol­low the law,” Fayulu, 62, told the BBC.

Many Con­golese fear the dis­pute could re-start a cy­cle of un­rest in a coun­try where wars caus­ing hunger and dis­ease have rav­aged the pop­u­la­tion.

Around the na­tion of 80 mil­lion peo­ple that is nearly the size of western Eu­rope, there have been iso­lated in­ci­dents of post­elec­tion vi­o­lence.

Po­lice con­fronted pro­test­ers in the eastern city of Goma on Fri­day, killing at least one per­son, a Reuters wit­ness said.

In the north­ern city of Kisan­gani, po­lice and army re­sponded to stu­dent protests, and in nearby Man­gobo a rul­ing party of­fice was set on fire, ac­cord­ing to an in­ter­nal U.N. re­port seen by Reuters.

These in­ci­dents fol­lowed clashes on Thurs­day in Kik­wit in which se­cu­rity forces killed four pro­test­ers.

“This coun­try has al­ready suf­fered a lot from all this vi­o­lence,” said Kin­shasa mo­tor­bike taxi driver Lam­bert, who de­clined to give his full name. “These protests should not be hap­pen­ing, be­cause Tshisekedi is the peo­ple’s choice.”

Martin Fayulu

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