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DR Congo Delays Results of December Election

VOA News - January 6, 2019
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Corneille Nangaa, head of DR Congo?s electoral commission (CENI) (file photo) | Enlarge
Democratic Republic of Congo officials say they are delaying the announcement of the results of its presidential election until some time later this week.

The commission is holding a meeting Sunday about the delay.

Corneille Nangaa, head of the country’s electoral commission (CENI), said, “It is not possible to publish the results on Sunday. We are making progress, but we do not have everything yet.”

Nangaa said the commission had received only 47 percent of ballots from polling stations across the vast Central African country, which lacks a well-developed road network.

He also said the system of manually collecting and compiling vote totals is not helping the process. The electoral commission had planned to use the internet to collect vote totals. But it gave up those plans after the opposition alleged the system was vulnerable to fraud.

Nangaa did not say when the results would be ready or released.

Latest problem

The delay is the latest problem in the chaotic Dec. 30 election to pick a successor to President Joseph Kabila. The 40 million eligible voters in the country chose from among 21 candidates to replace Kabila, who has ruled the country of 80 million since his father was assassinated in 2001.

Pre-election polls indicated that opposition figure Martin Fayulu was the favorite to replace Kabila, who threw his support behind his former interior minister, Emmanuel Shadary.

By law, only the electoral commission can announce election results in Congo.

The Catholic Church in Congo said Thursday that it had election results showing one candidate clearly winning, but did not say who it was. A senior church body called on the government to publish accurate results. The church warned of a popular uprising if results were not “true to the verdict of the ballot box.”

On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump said 80 U.S. military personnel and “appropriate combat equipment” had been deployed to the Central African country of Gabon to protect U.S. assets from possible “violent demonstrations.” In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he said more forces would deploy to Gabon, Congo or neighboring Republic of Congo if needed.

Congo has never seen a peaceful transfer of power since winning independence from Belgium in 1960.

Last week’s election was originally scheduled for 2016 but was delayed as Kabila stayed in office past the end of his mandate, sparking protests that were crushed by security forces, leaving dozens dead.

Election marred

Also Saturday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report that said “widespread irregularities, voter suppression and violence significantly marred” the Dec. 30 elections.

The HRW report cited several instances of voter suppression, including the “last-minute closure of more than 1,000 polling stations” in Kinshasa, the capital, as well as issues with electronic voting machines and voter lists, and polling sites opening late.

Official election results that suggest a falsified count could generate widespread protests, raising grave concerns of violent government repression, HRW said, adding that election officials should ensure results announced are accurate.

HRW also cited in its report that the DRC shut down internet and text messaging throughout the country Dec. 31. It also cut the signal for Radio France Internationale (RFI) in Kinshasa and other cities, and withdrew the accreditation for RFI’s special correspondent in Congo, who had to leave Congo on Jan. 3.

“Congolese voters showed they were determined to participate in the democratic process in the face of rampant election-day obstacles,” Ida Sawyer, deputy Africa director at HRW, said in the report. “The authorities should immediately restore all communications, allow independent media outlets to operate freely, and ensure that the vote count is carried out in a credible, transparent manner.”

Anita Powell in Johannesburg contributed to this report.

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