BFF-06,07 Warnings to DR Congo mount as election deadline looms

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Warnings to DR Congo mount as election deadline looms

KINSHASA, Jan 5, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Europe and Africa heaped pressure on DR
Congo on Friday, urging it to respect voters’ wishes in key presidential
elections as a deadline for unveiling the outcome loomed.

Expectations are mounting that electoral overseers will delay publication
of provisional results due by Sunday — a move likely to add to tensions in
the notoriously unstable country.

“The Democratic Republic of Congo is at a historic moment toward a
democratic transition,” the European Union said.

It called on the authorities “to ensure the upcoming results conform with
the Congolese people’s vote”.

A similar appeal was made by the African Union after it was briefed by the
head of an 80-member AU election monitoring team.

“Respect of the election results is crucial,” AU Commission chief Faki
Mahamat tweeted.

On Thursday, the United States called on the DRC to release “accurate”
results and warned of sanctions against election violators.

“Those who undermine the democratic process, threaten the peace, security
or stability of the DRC, or benefit from corruption may find themselves not
welcome in the United States and cut off from the US financial system,” the
State Department said.

The UN Security Council met behind closed doors to discuss the election,
but after two hours of meeting had failed to agree on a press statement.
Several countries including African nations said such a move was premature,
diplomats said.

French Ambassador Francois Delattre, whose country had requested the
meeting, said “the consolidation of the results must continue with
transparency”.

– Vote fears –

The elections last Sunday, which had been delayed three times, were called
to choose a successor to President Joseph Kabila, at the helm of sub-Saharan
Africa’s biggest country for nearly 18 years.

Polling day went ahead relatively peacefully by the DRC’s turbulent
standards.

But in a country that has not had a peaceful transition of power since
independence from Belgium in 1960, memories of electoral fraud and bogus
claims of victory run deep.

Opposition campaigners fear the result may be rigged to favour Kabila’s
preferred successor, hardline former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani
Shadary.

MORE/SSS/0924 hrs

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He is facing two strong opposition contenders — Martin Fayulu, a former
oil executive who entered politics, and Emmanuel Tshisekedi, head of the
UDPS, the country’s oldest and largest opposition party.

In the run-up to the election, Western powers repeatedly urged the count
to be conducted accurately, transparently and expediently.

But on Thursday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) said
it had collected only about a fifth of the results.

CENI blamed massive logistical problems in a country the size of
continental Western Europe but with poor infrastructure.

It indicated that it may have to postpone publication of provisional
results — due to be published by Sunday, followed by the definitive results
on January 15 and the presidential inauguration three days later.

Within hours the DRC’s powerful Roman Catholic Church, which had deployed
thousands of election observers, declared that it knew who had won from its
own monitoring of the tally.

It called on the election panel “to publish the election results in
keeping with truth and justice”.

A coalition of pro-Kabila parties on Friday angrily rebuffed the comments,
which were made by the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO). CENCO
had an “anarchic, irresponsible and biased attitude,” the Joint Front for
Congo (FCC) said.

It accused CENCO’s spokesman, Father Donatien Nshole, of “seriously
breaching” the constitution and electoral law by “illegally declaring voting
trends” in favour of a given candidate.

– Transparency –

International concern has also been triggered after the authorities’
decision to cut internet access, block French public-service broadcaster
Radio France Internationale and force its correspondent out of the country.

“These efforts to silence dissent could backfire considerably when the
results are announced,” the United Nations Human Rights office warned.

The DRC saw two wars between 1996 and 2003 that claimed millions of lives
through bloodshed, fighting, starvation and disease.

Bloody clashes also marred elections in 2006 and 2011.

The election was delayed several times as Kabila held on to power rather
than stepping down at the end of 2016.

Authorities crushed protests and voting was further postponed in areas hit
by violence.

BSS/AFP/SSS/0925 hrs