DRC chokes communications as vote counting continues after tense elections

Isaac Cain
January 5, 2019

The US House foreign affairs committee has urged authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo to ensure votes are counted transparently, saying Sunday's presidential election had been "neither free nor fair".

The National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) urged election authorities to publish results "in keeping with truth and justice".

The church, a powerful voice in the heavily Catholic nation, deployed some 40,000 electoral observers but could not say who the clear victor appeared to be, as Congo's electoral regulations forbid anyone but the electoral commission to announce results.

More than a third of polling stations in the December 30 election were missing voting materials when polls opened, according to a CENCO report on Thursday which outlined various shortfalls in the election's organization.

In a separate statement, Congo's ruling party called the church's attitude "irresponsible and anarchist".

Ambassador Francois Delattre spoke Friday at United Nations headquarters after a closed-door council meeting that France called. The election, which is meant to mark Congo's first democratic transfer of power, has already been marred by violence and logistical problems.

The EU has called on the Democratic Republic of Congo to restore Internet access, which operators say was cut on government orders. There was no immediate reaction from the government, though regional monitors earlier said the December 30 vote was "relatively well-managed" given the challenges involved.

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However, the fragile peace in place since the disastrous wars that rocked the continent from 1996 to 2003 is feared to hinge on the results of the election, and the favored candidate of outgoing President Joseph Kabila, in power since his father's assassination in 2001, was behind in the polls.

Both the opposition and Kabila's hand-picked candidate claim they have won, without posting specific figures.

Human Rights Watch also warned against any manipulation of the results. "We are watching carefully, and we are calling on all sides to refrain from the use of violence".

"The holding of these elections constitutes, in itself, a first great victory for the Congolese people", it said.

Opinion polls had shown Shadary trailing Fayulu and Tshisekedi, who have been buoyed by rising dissatisfaction with Kabila's tenure. The station has carried extensive coverage of the presidential election in this francophone country.

But critics say there has been little improvement in the quality of life for average Congolese and accuse the government of brutally suppressing dissent.

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