African Leaders Meet on Congo Election as Results Are Questioned

(Bloomberg) -- African heads of state gathered in Ethiopia to discuss the Democratic Republic of Congo’s disputed presidential election, after questions were raised about the accuracy of the results.

Opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi was declared the surprise winner of the Dec. 30 poll, ahead of rival candidate Martin Fayulu, who has disputed the outcome. If the Constitutional Court validates the electoral commission’s poll figures, Tshisekedi will succeed Joseph Kabila, who was barred by the constitution from seeking a third term after leading the cobalt- and copper-rich country for almost 18 years.

The leaders will discuss the Southern African Development Community’s stance on the election, said Barnabe Kikaya Bin Karubi, a senior adviser to Kabila. SADC and another regional bloc, the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region, last week took the unusual step of calling for a recount of the vote.

‘Blatant Interference’

Congo views the calls as “blatant interference in internal matters of a sovereign country,” Kikaya said in an interview in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, where leaders are meeting under the auspices of the African Union. “More importantly it’s against all rules of the African Union, even international law. Elections are a matter of national sovereignty.”

The Congo Research Group on Wednesday published leaked data it said show Fayulu won the election by a large margin. The figures include a near complete tally of results from the National Independent Electoral Commission’s database, and a second more partial set gathered by an almost 40,000-strong observer mission run by the Catholic Church on election day, the New York-based organization said.

“The results contradict those published by the election commission,” the CRG said on its website. “These two documents suggest that the elections were dramatically rigged in the favor of Felix Tshisekedi.”

Court Hearing

Congo’s Constitutional Court this week began hearing an appeal by Fayulu for a recount. The 16-member SADC’s call for a recount came in a statement emailed by Zambian President Edgar Lungu’s office. SADC member countries South Africa and Zambia both sought to soften that language by issuing separate statements on Monday saying any decision about a review of the results should be left to the authorities in Congo.

Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso, the current chairman of the 12-member ICGLR, echoed the statement from Lungu’s office, saying a recount would “provide the necessary assurance to winners and losers.”

“What’s peculiar with the two statements is that they both called for a vote recount and a government of national unity, which for us is mutually exclusive,” Kikaya said. “If you want a vote recount, that means that we don’t know who is elected yet. How can you at the same time have a government of national unity?”

Kikaya said the court will announce its ruling on the election dispute on Friday.

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