Catholic bishops call on DRC election commission to release “accurate results”

World Today

Catholic bishops call on DRC election commission to release “accurate results”

International pressure is growing on the Democratic Republic of Congo to restore internet service and release election results from last Sunday’s presidential election. 

It adds to pressure from within the country from Congolese who are increasingly anxious about how the critical vote will turn out. 

CGTN’s Chris Wheelock reports.

The election to replace Joseph Kabila has been chaotic from the start. Delayed for two years, there are allegations of numerous irregularities – names missing from voter lists, technical issues with new voting machines delayed or missing polling station materials.

In key opposition strongholds – more than one-million voters were barred from voting until March, effectively negating their voices entirely. The election commission said ethnic violence and the risk of spreading the Ebola virus from those areas in the country’s east justified the delay.

Despite these issues, Election Day passed in relative calm and vote counting got underway. But ballots quickly piled up – a problem exacerbated after the government cut off internet and text messaging access nationwide. The government said the action was taken to preserve public order after what it called “fictitious results” were circulated.

The heavily influential Catholic Church on Thursday said its data – collected from 40,000 observers – show a clear winner in the election, but it’s barred by law from naming a winner – something only the election commission can do. Instead Catholic bishops called on the government to publish “accurate results,” a call that drew criticism and a rebuke from the commission.

Tensions are running high in Kinshasa and elsewhere, with few now expecting provisional election results to be released on Sunday as planned.

“We are concerned that these efforts to silence dissent could backfire considerably when the results are announced,” Ravina Shamdasani, with the United Nations of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said. “And we are watching carefully and we are calling on all sides to refrain from the use of violence.”

The ruling party candidate Emmanuel Shadary has said he expects to win, while opinion polls before the vote indicated opposition candidate Martin Fayulu was the favorite.

Definitive results of the election are due Jan 15, with a new president set to be sworn in Jan 18.