The Democratic Republic of Congo’s election commission postponed declaring the winner of last week’s polls amid fears the result could lead to new violence as protests erupted worldwide. The conflict-prone country has been on high alert while it awaits the final results after a campaign that saw deadly police crackdowns on opposition rallies and a series of clashes between rival partisans.
Early tallies showed President Joseph Kabila heading for re-election in the single-round vote, which pitted him against a divided opposition field of 10 candidates. But the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) said late on Tuesday it needed more time to compile final results from around the vast central African country, promising a full count within 48 hours.
“We don’t have all the results sheets from the 169 local results compilation centres,” CENI spokesman Matthieu Mpita told AFP. “That’s why we had to postpone the provisional results. To respect the law, we need to have all the results sheets in our possession.” The postponement came after police fired tear gas to disperse opposition supporters in Kinshasa. According to results issued late Tuesday, Kabila led main rival Etienne Tshisekedi 49 percent to 33 percent, with 89 percent of polling centres counted.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has been holding its breath since the vote, which was marred by chaos and rioting at polling stations and deadly rebel attacks in the southeastern city of Lubumbashi. Washington called on all political factions to reject violence and for the authorities to protect the population.
“Violence has no place in the democratic process,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. “The United States urges all Congolese political leaders and their supporters to act responsibly and to renounce violence, and reminds the government of the DRC of its responsibility to provide security for the Congolese population.”
Some 20,000 soldiers are on stand-by at bases in Kinshasa, and convoys of large trucks packed with armed police carrying gas masks were seen on the capital’s unusually quiet streets. Heavy police patrols Tuesday fired tear gas and repeatedly dispersed opposition supporters outside the headquarters of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), Tshisekedi’s party.