DR Congo Catholic Church says it knows election outcome, urges ‘truth’

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DR Congo’s influential Roman Catholic Church said Thursday that it knew who had won the country’s presidential elections and called on the authorities to quell a mounting storm about the outcome.

A spokesman for a senior church body, the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), said “data in its possession from vote counting reports from polling stations designates the selection of one candidate as president.”

CENCO called on election overseers “to publish the election results in keeping with truth and justice,” said spokesman Father Donatien Nshole.

CENCO says it deployed more than 40,000 observers across the country to monitor Sunday’s vote, the first presidential ballot since 2011.

Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) agents count votes during an electricity cut.

It made the appeal just hours after the head of the Independent National Election Commission (CENI) said logistical problems in collecting election data meant that provisional results — due by Sunday — may be delayed.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, which is sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest country and one of its most unstable, has been roiled by violence and political uncertainty for the past two years.

President Joseph Kabila, 47, should have stepped down at the end of 2016 when his constitutionally-limited two terms in office expired.

But he invoked a caretaker clause in the constitution to stay on, sparking protests which were ruthlessly crushed, leaving scores dead.

Elections to succeed him were delayed several times before they finally took place on Sunday.

They have been further postponed in several areas of the country hit by violence.

Nshole spoke at a presentation of a preliminary report on the election by CENO’s monitoring team, the Electoral Observation Mission of the Peace and Justice Commission.

“It is importance to emphasise that the irregularities that were observed were not able to significantly affect the choice which the Congolese people clearly expressed through the ballot box,” he declared.

Communications Minister Lambert Mende has warned foreign media against any move to forestall announcement of the results, saying this task was solely the right of CENI.

DR Congo has never known a peaceful handover of power since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960 and many fear there will be renewed bloodshed if the results lack credibility.

The country lived through two fully-fledged wars between 1996 and 2003 that claimed millions of lives through bloodshed, fighting, starvation and disease.

Violence also marred elections in 2006 and 2011.