Top court in DR Congo upholds presidential election result

Ruling finds opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi the victor following disputed poll

Supporters of Felix Tshisekedi, leader of the Congolese main opposition party, celebrate along the streets after  judges confirmed his  victory in the presidential election. Photograph: REUTERS/Olivia Acland

Supporters of Felix Tshisekedi, leader of the Congolese main opposition party, celebrate along the streets after judges confirmed his victory in the presidential election. Photograph: REUTERS/Olivia Acland

 

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s constitutional court confirmed Felix Tshisekedi’s presidential election win on Sunday after dismissing a challenge from another opposition leader.

Second-placed Martin Fayulu accused Mr Tshisekedi and the ruling party of stitching up the result in a move that risks stoking further unrest over the bitterly disputed poll.

Mr Tshisekedi’s supporters were celebrating the court decision in the streets of Kinshasa.

Mr Fayulu says the results were the product of a secret deal between Mr Tshisekedi and outgoing President Joseph Kabila to cheat him out of a win of more than 60 per cent.

The camps of Mr Kabila and Mr Tshisekedi denied making any such deal.

The president of the constitutional court, Benoit Luamba, rejected the challenge as “inadmissible.”

“The constitutional court has just confirmed that it serves a dictatorial regime . . . by validating false results, (and enabling) a constitutional coup d’etat,” Mr Fayulu said in a statement.

The provisional results in the election, which was meant to enable Congo’s first democratic transfer of power in 59 years of independence from Belgium, showed Mr Tshisekedi winning with a slim margin over Mr Fayulu. Mr Kabila’s favoured candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, came in a distant third.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende welcomed the court’s decision. “Felix Tshisekedi will become the fifth president of the republic,” Mr Mende said by telephone.

A spokesman for Mr Tshisekedi, Vidiye Tshimanga, said: “We are happy that the voice of the Congolese people has been heard and that a true democratic and peaceful handover will occur.”

If Fayulu’s supporters reject the result, it could worsen unrest that has already seen 34 people killed, 59 wounded and 241 “arbitrary arrests” in the past week, according to the UN human rights office.

Congo’s constitutional court is widely seen as beholden to Mr Kabila, who has been in power since his father was assassinated in 2001.

‘Serious doubts’

Independent monitors have flagged major flaws, including faulty voting machines and polling stations at which many were unable to vote. The Catholic Church, which had a 40,000-strong team of observers, denounced the provisional result.

A tally from the church reviewed by Reuters from about 70 per cent of polling stations suggested a victory of 62 per cent for Mr Fayulu, a former Exxon Mobil country manager.

Mr Tshisekedi and Mr Ramazani were almost neck-and-neck second place with 16.93 percent and 16.88 percent, respectively.

The African Union (AU) called for final results to be postponed. The AU, which often sits on the fence when it comes to mediating internal conflicts of member countries, cited “serious doubts” about the election’s credibility.

On Friday, Congo rejected the AU’s request.

Accusations of cheating are not new to elections in Congo, which was ruled by kleptocratic dictator Mobutu Sese Seko for 32 years before tumbling into chaos and war in the late 1990s.

Foreign powers have overlooked alleged crookedness in past polls for the sake of stability in a country where two wars sucked in multiple African armies and killed millions.

Congo’s vast interior is a vital source of copper and other metals, including cobalt, used in electric car batteries and mobile phones. – Reuters