Congo riot police deploy at electoral commission ahead of vote result
January 09 2019 05:52 PM
Congolese policemen at Congo's Independent National Electoral Commission headquarters in Kinshasa
Congolese policemen at Congo's Independent National Electoral Commission headquarters in Kinshasa

Reuters/Kinshasa

* Result could be announced later on Weds
* Congolese worry about possible vote fraud
* Some suspect power-sharing deal taking shape

Riot police deployed at the electoral commission's headquarters in Kinshasa on Wednesday ahead of the expected announcement of a result in Democratic Republic of Congo's presidential election, a vote the opposition said was marred by fraud.

Pre-election polls gave businessman Martin Fayulu a healthy lead but his supporters believe President Joseph Kabila plans to rig the vote in favour of his hand-picked candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, or alternatively to forge a power-sharing pact with Felix Tshisekedi, head of the largest opposition party.

Any widespread perception that the election has been stolen could set off a destabilising cycle of unrest, repeating violence that followed elections in 2006 and 2011, many Congolese fear.

The election commission (CENI) said late on Tuesday it had held what it called a series of ‘evaluation meetings and deliberations’, after which it would ‘proceed to the publication of provisional results from the presidential election’.

‘We don't want people to die when they announce (the results), blood to be spilled,’ said Kinshasa resident Ohn Kabamba. ‘We are fed up, we are tired and we are waiting for a peaceful announcement which will allow us to rejoice rather than cry.’

‘If the CENI announces the true results of the ballot boxes it will be calm but if not, I don't know what will happen,’ said another Kinshasa resident, Abraham Tumba.

A CENI source and a diplomat said they expected results to be announced later on Wednesday, and journalists were summoned to the CENI headquarters at around 3 p.m. (1400 GMT).

Kabila had wanted to hand over to Shadary when he stands down this month after 18 years in power - two years after the official end of his mandate.

But polls suggested the former interior minister was trailing both Tshisekedi and frontrunner Fayulu ahead of the Dec. 30 poll, a contest that was meant to result in the first democratic transfer of power in Congo's 59 years of independence.

The Roman Catholic Church, which helped monitor the poll, has said there was a clear winner in the vote but refrained from saying who it thought had won. It has been working behind the scenes in the strongly Catholic central African country to secure a peaceful transfer of power.

As well as the election commission's headquarters, police also took up positions along Kinshasa's main boulevard. Although Kinshasa residents went about their normal activities, some parents kept their children home from school as a precaution.

Even so, some Congolese said they were gearing up for potential unrest.

‘Everyone ... voted against the government in place. We are preparing fully to demand victory if it is stolen from us,’ said Augustin Bujiriri, a 25-year-old student in the eastern city of Goma.

CONTACTS

The results were originally due last Sunday but were postponed due to delays tallying the vote.

Tshisekedi's camp, which says it expects to win, said on Tuesday that it had met with Kabila's representatives to ensure a peaceful transfer of power, although Kabila's camp denied any such meetings had occurred.

Supporters of Fayulu have voiced suspicions that Kabila may be looking to negotiate a power-sharing agreement with Tshisekedi if his candidate Shadary loses.

On Tuesday, Fayulu and six other presidential candidates issued a statement saying that the results ‘cannot be negotiated’.

Tshisekedi's spokesman, Vidiye Tshimanga, on Wednesday sought to play down the contacts with Kabila's representatives, saying they had occurred only on the sidelines of meetings with the CENI and regional observers about the electoral process.

Domestic election observers say they witnessed serious irregularities on election day and during vote tallying, although a regional observer mission said the election went ‘relatively well’.

In South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa and his Zambian counterpart Edgar Lungu met on Wednesday and urged CENI to speedily release the results to maintain stability.

Last week, South Africa, long a Kabila ally, joined with Russia and China at the UN Security Council to block the release of a statement proposed by France that would have welcomed the holding of the vote but criticised the government's decision to cut access to the Internet and some media outlets.



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