Regional Leaders Drop Congo-Vote Recount Call, Urging Stability

(Bloomberg) -- Southern African leaders dropped their call for a recount of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s disputed presidential election and urged the international community to respect the country’s sovereignty.

The announcement removes a pillar of support from Congolese opposition leader Martin Fayulu’s Constitutional Court bid to review the results of the Dec. 30 vote, won by rival candidate Felix Tshisekedi. The 16-nation Southern African Development Community had called for a recount of the ballot in a Jan. 13 statement issued by Zambia’s presidency.

SADC leaders “recognized and underscored the role of the Constitutional Court of the DRC and called upon the international community to respect the constitution of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the internal legal and political processes for the finalization of the electoral process,” the bloc said Thursday in a statement after a summit in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

Unusual Statement

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 court is expected to rule on Friday.

The unusual statement four days ago by SADC, which traditionally has a policy of non-interference in individual countries’ affairs, was echoed by the 12-nation International Conference of the Great Lakes Region, which also called for a recount in a declaration disseminated by the ICGLR’s current chairman Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso.

Congo viewed the two groups’ statements as “blatant interference in internal matters of a sovereign country,” Barnabe Kikaya Bin Karubi, a senior adviser to Kabila, said in an interview in Addis Ababa before the SADC leaders met. “More importantly it’s against all rules of the African Union, even international law. Elections are a matter of national sovereignty.”

SADC’s statement on Thursday“isn’t a surprise,” Olivier Kamitatu, a spokesman for Fayulu, said by phone. “It’s the usual position.”

‘Dramatically Rigged’

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.”

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