Kabila Named Winner of DRC Election; Tshisekedi Rejects Results

Posted December 9th, 2011 at 6:50 pm (UTC-5)
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Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila has been named the winner of last week's election, but the president's top opponent is rejecting the results and has proclaimed himself to be the country's leader.

Congo's electoral commission released final provisional election results Friday, saying Mr. Kabila defeated challenger Etienne Tshisekedi 49 to 32 percent, with other candidates trailing far behind.

Almost immediately, though, Mr. Tshisekedi told VOA that he considers the results to be a “provocation.” He said that he sees himself “from this day on, the elected president of the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

Another presidential candidate, Vital Kamhe, also told VOA that he believes Mr. Tshisekedi is the DRC's president.

After the results were announced, residents in the capital reported hearing sporadic gunfire. VOA correspondent Scott Stearns reported seeing burning tires in a pro-Tshisekedi Kinshasa neighborhood, but there appeared to be no large-scale protests Friday evening.

Congo's ruling party said President Kabila won the election fairly and that anyone alleging fraud must use the legal system to address their concerns.

Ahead of the poll, opposition parties accused officials of rigging the vote, and warned of possible violence.

Troops are on standby in case of unrest, and the United Nations, United States, European Union and African Union have urged calm.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called Friday for any differences to be resolved peacefully.

The U.S. State Department echoed that call and urged Americans to avoid non-essential travel to Congo through at least the end of the year.

Congo's electoral commission released the results three days later than originally planned, citing logistical problems.

Stearns reports that the electoral commission is releasing a breakdown of election results that include tallies from each polling station, in an effort to head off accusations of fraud.

The electoral commission put overall voter turnout at 58 percent.

Last week's presidential and legislative polls were only the second free elections since the African nation was torn apart by several years of warfare that ended in 2003.

Voting was supposed to last for one day but stretched into three because of ballot shortages in some areas and scattered incidents of violence.

Election observers from the African Union and U.S.-based Carter Center reported widespread irregularities, but urged Congolese parties and politicians to pursue any challenge to the results through the courts.

Human Rights Watch said 18 people were killed in violence leading up to the polls.