The Catholic Church has rejected the official result of Congo’s presidential election and the loser denounced a “coup”, dashing hopes that the country could stage the first uncontested transfer of power in its 59 years of independence.
Here are 8 things you need to know about the controversial election result:
• Electoral officials proclaimed opposition figure Felix Tshisekedi the victor of the election to replace Joseph Kabila who has ruled the Democratic Republic of Congo for 18 years.
• Pre-election polls had predicted a landslide win for another opposition leader, Martin Fayulu, who is backed by powerful exiled politicians and former militia leaders with influence in the violent east.
• Fayulu’s supporters say the authorities rigged the result on behalf of Tshisekedi as part of a deal to protect figures from the outgoing administration.
Fayulu may appeal to Congo’s Constitutional Court.
Fayulu supporters say Kabila made a deal with Tshisekedi after Kabila’s own hand-picked candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, failed to gain enough support to be a credible winner. Shadary conceded following the announcement of the results.
• Kabila has ruled since the 2001 assassination of his father Laurent Kabila, whose victory in a 1996-1997 civil war ended more than three decades of rule by dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.
Kabila says he wants to stay in politics and may run again in 2023, when he will no longer be barred by term limits.
• At least four people were reported killed in demonstrations in one eastern city, although much of the rest of the country appeared calm.
• Tshisekedi’s supporters celebrated his victory. But Thursday’s intervention by the Catholic Church could make it harder for him to win broad acceptance as the first leader to come to power through the ballot box since Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba was overthrown in a coup less than three months after independence in 1960.
• The Catholic Church is widely venerated across the country of 80 million and is believed to have accurate election data gathered by a 40 000-strong team of election observers who tallied results displayed at individual polling stations.
While bishops stopped short of publishing their own results or saying who they believed was the true winner, they made clear it wasn’t Tshisekedi, as declared by election commission CENI.
“The results from the presidential election as published by CENI do not correspond to the data collected by our observation mission from polling stations and vote counts,” the National Episcopal Conference of Congo observers said in a statement.
Three diplomats briefed on the Church mission’s tally said it showed Fayulu had won.
• President Cyril Ramaphosa urged regional and international parties to refrain from speculation about the vote result.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian demanded clarity on results “which are the opposite to what we expected”.
Britain’s foreign secretary tweeted that he was “very concerned about discrepancies” in the results and that the UN Security Council would discuss it.
Washington said in a US State Department statement it “takes note” of the results, but added it awaits “clarification of questions which have been raised regarding the electoral count”.