DRC dismisses AU call to suspend election results

By William Clowes and Ignatius Ssuuna

(Bloomberg) – Democratic Republic of Congo officials rejected an African Union request to suspend the finalisation of election results that are being challenged in court by an opposition candidate.

The continental body on Thursday unexpectedly criticised Congo’s handling of the vote, saying it had “serious doubts” about the veracity of the outcome. The organisation is dispatching a high-level delegation to the country to try and help resolve a political crisis spawned by the disputed result.

“The African Union shouldn’t interfere in Congo’s internal affairs,” Congolese Communications Minister Lambert Mende said by phone Friday from the capital, Kinshasa. “The AU can give us advice, which is welcome, but we cannot allow them to direct our courts. This is impossible.”

Congo’s electoral commission last week declared Felix Tshisekedi the winner of the Dec. 30 ballot. Rival candidate Martin Fayulu, who came second, says the results compilation was rigged and is challenging the result in the Constitutional Court. An adviser to outgoing President Joseph Kabila said Thursday the court will announce its ruling on Friday.

‘Serious doubts’

Fayulu’s claims are backed by the country’s Catholic Church and leaked electoral-commission data showing that more people voted for Fayulu than Tshisekedi.

African heads of state and government who met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, on Thursday concluded that there were “serious doubts on the conformity of the provisional results, as proclaimed by the National Independent Electoral Commission, with the votes cast,” the body said in a statement. “Accordingly, the heads of state and government called for the suspension of the proclamation of the final results of the elections.”

If the Constitutional Court validates the electoral commission’s poll figures, Tshisekedi will succeed Kabila, who was barred by the constitution from seeking a third term after leading the cobalt- and copper-rich country for almost 18 years.

Secret agreement

Tshisekedi’s party also rejected the African Union request.

“We consider the Constitutional Court to be our country’s highest judicial institution,” Vidiye Tshimanga, a spokesman for Tshisekedi, said by phone. “No state can give orders to another concerning matters of sovereignty and electoral matters fall under the sovereignty of our country.”

Fayulu accuses Tshisekedi and Kabila of having struck a secret agreement to deprive him of the presidency – a charge denied by both camps. Kabila’s anointed successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, came third in the poll, while Fayulu was backed by Moise Katumbi and Jean-Pierre Bemba, two of Kabila’s biggest adversaries.

The Congo Research Group this week 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 Congolese 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 organisation 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 favour of Felix Tshisekedi.”