The Latest: Congo’s Catholic church challenges poll results
KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — The Latest on Congo’s presidential election results. All times local:
Congo’s Catholic church says official presidential election results do not agree with the outcome that its 40,000 observers compiled in recording the results posted at all polling stations.
The church had the largest election observer mission.
Its secretary general, the Rev. Donatien Nshole, refuses to say who won the election according to its findings. But diplomats briefed on the results say they indicated opposition leader Martin Fayulu won easily.
The surprise win of opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi is disputed by Fayulu, who alleges a backroom deal with President Joseph Kabila.
Nshole urges all Congolese to remain peaceful and says those who challenge the official results should do so within the legal framework and without violence.
South Africa is urging Congo’s electoral commission to finalize the election results “to ensure the credibility of the election and also maintain peace and stability.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa is congratulating Congo for its election, urging the region and wider international community to refrain from speculation and allow Congolese election officials to finish their work.
The surprise win of opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi is disputed by opposition leader Martin Fayulu, who alleges a backroom deal with President Joseph Kabila.
South Africa’s government is influential as Congo has rejected what it considers Western meddling. South Africa, however, has been under pressure to be more outspoken on Congo amid tensions over the long-delayed vote.
The European Union says it is waiting for the assessment of observer missions sent to monitor Congo’s election before commenting on the poll results, and it calls for calm until things are clearer.
European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic says the EU notes that parts of the opposition are contesting the polls. The EU is “waiting for the reaction of the observation missions on the ground and from our African partners.”
She says that “we call on all political actors in (Congo) to abstain from any kind of act of violence and allow for the democratic process to continue.”
Congo expelled the EU’s ambassador shortly before the election over human rights-related sanctions the bloc has in place against President Joseph Kabila’s preferred successor. Officials vote results show he finished third.
Despite this, Kocijancic says the EU mission in Congo continues to work normally.
The advocacy group The Enough Project warns that Felix Tshisekedi’s victory in Congo’s presidential election, as announced by the electoral commission, may be challenged. Sasha Lezhnev, deputy director of Enough Project, which focuses on Africa, said the official results should be compared to the tallies compiled by the Catholic Church which deployed 40,000 observers across Congo and independently added up the voting results posted outside each polling station. Lezhnev said the international community must watch the process closely. “If it looks like the vote was indeed rigged and that Kabila is actually staying in power via a backroom deal, then sanctions and other financial pressure should ensue,” said Lezhnev. “It’s critical for the U.S., European Union to do much more to hold officials and businesses involved in high-level corruption accountable through anti-money laundering measures, network sanctions, and prosecutions.”
France’s foreign minister is casting doubt on Congo’s presidential election results proclaiming opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi the surprise winner.
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Thursday on CNews television that the results “do not conform with the results that we have noticed.” He cited the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Congo, saying the group “made verifications and announced results that are totally different.”
Le Drian didn’t elaborate.
Tshisekedi had not been considered the leading candidate, and rival opposition candidate Martin Fayulu denounced the victory as fraud.
The French foreign minister urged calm and called on African leaders and organizations to ensure that the proclaimed results “are the real election results.” The international community has been closely watching the Congo election.
Supporters of opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi took to the streets of Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, Thursday morning to celebrate his win in the presidential election, that was announced by the electoral commission.
The candidate of Congo’s ruling party, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, who came third in the official results, has through his spokeswoman congratulated the winner, Felix Tshisekedi. Me Aime Kilolo, spokeswoman for Shadary, said the electoral commission’s announcement of Tshisekedi as the winner was “the will of the people.” She said Shadary would make a statement on the results in a few hours.
Opposition candidate Martin Fayulu denounced the Congo election results as an “electoral hold up” that were “rigged, fabricated and invented” and do “not reflect the truth of the ballots.” He called on the Congolese people to “rise as one man to protect victory.”
Fayulu also called on the Catholic Church to release the results it got from its team of 40,000 observers who recorded voting tallies posted at each of the polling centers. Last week, the Catholic Church said their observations showed a clear winner.
Several diplomats briefed on the matter confirmed to The Associated Press that the figures compiled by the Catholic Church showed that Fayulu won an absolute majority of the votes. Two diplomats also said that all major observation missions, including from the African Union and the Southern African Development Community, showed similar results with Fayulu the winner.
“How long are we going to negotiate results?” asked Fayulu, of what he said was a deal made to declare Tshisekedi the winner. “In 2006, Jean-Pierre Bemba’s victory was stolen, in 2011 Étienne Tshisekedi’s victory was stolen. In 2018 victory won’t be stolen from Martin Fayulu.”
Congo opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi has been declared winner of the long-delayed, disorganized and controversial presidential election, in an announcement by the electoral commission early Thursday that surprised many, as the vast country braced for possible protests over alleged rigging.
Tshisekedi, who received more than 7 million votes, or 38 percent, according to the official results, had not been widely considered the leading candidate and is relatively untested. The son of late opposition leader Etienne, who pursued Congo’s presidency for many years, he startled Congolese shortly before the election by breaking away from an opposition effort to unite behind a single candidate.
Tshisekedi’s victory was quickly denounced by opposition leader Martin Fayulu, who claimed the results were rigged. Fayulu denounced the results as an “electoral hold up” and urged protests.