Congo Ruling Coalition Slams Church Statement on Vote Result

(Bloomberg) -- Congo’s ruling coalition warned that early pronouncements on the outcome of last week’s presidential elections could instigate a revolt, accusing an organization representing Catholic bishops of irresponsible behavior because it said it had data showing which candidate has won.

The National Episcopal Conference of Congo, an influential and independent group that deployed 40,000 observers on voting day, said Thursday that the results it has so far collected from the Dec. 30 vote indicated who had won, without identifying the person. The body then urged the electoral commission, which is still counting ballots, to publish the results of each polling station.

Congolese went to the polls to pick a successor to President Joseph Kabila, who’s been in power for almost 18 years. The election is a three-way contest between his protege Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, the candidate of the ruling Common Front for Congo, or FCC, and two main opposition candidates. The government has tried to limit speculation about the outcome by cutting off the internet the day after the vote and warning media that only the electoral commission is allowed to publish results.

The FCC “strongly condemns the partisan attitude” of the conference for saying there’s a clear winner while the electoral commission’s compilation centers have only received 20 percent of ballot papers and the count is still ongoing, Barnabe Kikaya bin Karubi, the spokesman of Shadary’s campaign and a senior adviser to Kabila, told reporters Friday in the capital, Kinshasa. “The announcement by the conference can brainwash the population by preparing a revolt,” Karubi said as he read out a statement.

U.S. Troops

Prior to the press conference by the ruling coalition, the electoral commission sent a letter to the Catholic church organization in which similar language was used, saying the group had violated the law and its pronouncements could spark an uprising. The letter from the electoral commission isn’t public and was seen by Bloomberg.

The U.S. sent 80 troops with combat equipment and supported by military aircraft to nearby Gabon to support U.S. Embassy staff and citizens in Kinshasa in case violent demonstrations erupt, President Donald Trump said in a letter to congressional leaders on Friday. Additional forces may be deployed if necessary, he said.

Despite the presence of more than 16,000 United Nations peacekeepers in the vast central African country, Congo took the unusual step of refusing logistical support from the UN and financial assistance from international donors to organize the vote. It also barred some foreign observers, including the European Union, and withdrew the accreditation of Radio France Internationale’s correspondent earlier this week.

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