Congo says Felix Tshisekedi wins presidential poll

Posted January 11, 2019

The influential Catholic Church has questioned the official results of the Democratic Republic of Congo's controversial presidential election.

Felix Tshisekedi, the leader of the largest opposition party, has been declared the victor of the long-delayed presidential election to replace Joseph Kabila.

"We see that the result of the presidential election as published by CENI (the electoral commission) does not correspond with the data collected by our observer mission from polling stations and counting centres", said Father Donatien Nshole, spokesman for the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), which represents the country's Catholic bishops.

Will there be a peaceful transition of power? "In 2019, we refuse that the victory of the people be stolen once more", he said.

The candidate Kabila hand-picked to succeed him, former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, got 23.8 per cent of the vote, coming in third behind the other main opposition candidate, Martin Fayulu, with 34.8 per cent.

"This is the coronation of a lifetime", said the deputy secretary-general of Tshisekedi's party, Rubens Mikindo.

Careful statements by the global 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.

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As the lengthy results were read out on nationwide television, police were deployed at strategic spots in the capital Kinshasa where, for the second evening running, many residents went home and locked their doors early.

The delayed results come after worldwide pressure to announce an outcome that reflected the will of the people.

Some observers suggested that President Joseph Kabila's government made a deal with Tshisekedi to declare him the victor, as hopes faded for ruling party candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, who received just 23 percent of the official results. The New York Times cited a senior adviser to Kabila as saying the Catholic group believed Fayulu, rather than Tshisekedi, won comfortably. The United States threatened sanctions against officials who rigged the vote.

He blamed the delay on opposition parties' insistence that results be counted by hand and not transmitted electronically via voting machines, which Congo used for the first time.

Opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi was named the victor on Thursday.

Western pressure likely has little effect, however, as Congo's government has rejected what it calls interference and expelled the European Union ambassador days before the vote.

The opposition was weakened by internal arguments and the exclusion by the electoral commission of two political heavyweights: Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former warlord, and Moïse Katumbi, a popular tycoon.

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Many Congolese had objected to Shadary, suspecting that Kabila would continue to rule from behind the scenes.

The current president, Joseph Kabila, is stepping down after 18 years in office.

Tshisekedi inherited the leadership of the UDPS party when his father, Etienne, died in 2017.

But election chief Corneille Nangaa declared Tshisekedi the victor with 38.57 percent of the vote, just ahead of Fayulu with 34.8 percent.

Now Congo faces a new leader who is little known after spending many years in Belgium and living in the shadow of his outspoken father. He was less visible in campaigning than Fayulu and did not make himself available to reporters after the vote.

Sarah Gardner, who works with the project's investigative initiative called The Sentry, said: "I think if that process goes forward, there needs to be global support for full transparency and statements to that effect".

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