11 Jan 2019

DR Congo presidential election: Church questions results

7:46 am on 11 January 2019

The influential Catholic Church has questioned the official results of the Democratic Republic of Congo's [DRC] controversial presidential election.

Felix Tshisekedi was named the winner of the Democratic Republic of Congo's presidential election. 11 January 2019

Felix Tshisekedi was named the winner of the Democratic Republic of Congo's presidential election. Photo: AFP

Opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi was named the winner overnight.

However, the Church, which posted 40,000 election observers, says the result does not match its findings.

The runner-up, opposition candidate Martin Fayulu, has accused Mr Tshisekedi of reaching a power-sharing deal with the ruling party.

Mr Tshisekedi has denied cutting any deal.

There are fears the result could trigger unrest, with at least two people killed in the western city of Kikwit on Thursday.

Two police officers were also killed, and 10 people were wounded, AFP reports.

However, most parts of the country appear to be calm.

Why is the result controversial?

If confirmed, Mr Tshisekedi will be the first opposition challenger to win since the DRC gained independence in 1960.

He has vowed to be "the president of all DR Congolese", saying: "No-one could have imagined such a scenario whereby an opposition candidate would emerge victorious."

However, runner-up Martin Fayulu, who is also an opposition candidate, has described it as an "electoral coup".

The current president, Joseph Kabila, is stepping down after 18 years in office.

President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo  Joseph Kabila.

Current DRC president Joseph Kabila Photo: AFP

The candidate from Mr Kabila's party had initially been expected to win, but ended up finishing third - and is not challenging the results.

Mr Fayulu's supporters say this backs their suspicion that Mr Tshisekedi has cut a power-sharing deal with Mr Kabila. Mr Tshisekedi's spokesman, Louis d'Or Ngalamulume, said there was "never any deal".

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church says the result given by the electoral commission does not correspond with its own tally, and the French and Belgian governments have also expressed doubts about the result.

The church did not name anyone in its statement, and urged all parties to refrain from violence.

However, three diplomats speaking anonymously to Reuters said the church tallies had showed Mr Fayulu winning.

According to the National Electoral Commission (Ceni), Mr Tshisekedi received 38.5 percent of the vote in the 30 December election.

The full results were, with turnout reportedly 48 percent:

  • Felix Tshisekedi - 7 million votes
  • Martin Fayulu - 6.4 million votes
  • Emmanuel Shadary - 4.4 million votes

However, the result can still be challenged.

Democratic Republic of Congo's opposition politician Martin Fayulu. 11 January 1610

Democratic Republic of Congo's opposition politician Martin Fayulu. Photo: AFP

Why is the Church so influential?

About 40 percent of DR Congo's population is Roman Catholic and the church has a wide network of schools and hospitals.

It is seen by many Congolese as a moral voice in a country where politics has so often been tarnished by corruption.

The Church may now be publicly doubting the results but it will be very wary of any public demonstrations, because it knows from the experience of past crackdowns that leading people onto the streets can have tragic consequences.

The security forces have used live ammunition as well as tear gas and beatings during previous protests.

Who is Felix Tshisekedi?

  • Son of late veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, who died in 2017
  • He has promised to make the fight against poverty his priority
  • Backed out of an opposition deal to have a unity candidate
  • Ran on his own ticket with the backing of politician Vital Kamerhe
  • Nicknamed "Fatshi", short for three of his names Felix Antoine Tshilombo
  • Became leader of of his father's UDPS party in March 2018

The background

DR Congo is a country the size of Western Europe and Mr Kabila had promised its first orderly transfer of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.

He took over from his assassinated father Laurent in 2001.

Elected in 2006, Joseph Kabila secured another term in controversial elections in 2011.

He was barred from running for another term under the constitution, and was supposed to step down two years ago, but the election was postponed after the electoral commission said it needed more time to register voters.