The European Union called Friday for voting results in the Democratic Republic of Congo to reflect the people’s will at what it called a “historic moment toward a democratic transition.”

Elections held last Sunday will determine who succeeds President Joseph Kabila, at the helm of sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest country for nearly 18 years.

“The Democratic Republic of Congo is at a historic moment toward a democratic transition,” a spokesperson for the EU’s diplomatic arm said.

“The EU joins calls from the African Union election monitoring mission and the AU commission chairman, among others, to ensure the upcoming results conform with the Congolese people’s vote,” the statement said.

All of the DR Congo’s “political actors have a duty to contribute to the success of this transition in a spirit of reconciliation and peace,” the EU’s external action service added.

African Union chief Moussa Faki Mahamat called earlier Friday for the DRC voting results to be respected, as tensions grow over delays in the counting process.

Three days before the elections, the EU lashed out at DR Congo’s decision to expel its ambassador, calling the move “completely unjustified.”

DR Congo Foreign Minister Leonard She Okitundu had told the EU it had 48 hours to withdraw its representative in retaliation for sanctions against 14 officials, including Kabila’s handpicked candidate for the long-delayed vote.

The election was the country’s first presidential ballot in seven years. It has not had a peaceful transfer of power since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 19, 2018 shows a moto taxi driver waiting for costumers in front of demonstration on a crossroad in the Ndjili district of Kinshasa.

DR Congo violence drives 16,000 into Congo-Brazzaville: UN

Around 16,000 people have fled into the Democratic Republic of Congo’s neighbour after inter-communal clashes erupted last month in the southwest of the country, the UN said on Friday.

Violence in Yumbi, in the DRC province of Mai-Ndombe, prompted an exodus to the neighbouring Republic of Congo, also known as Congo-Brazzaville, the UN’s refugee agency said.

UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic stressed that the violence stemmed from long-standing tensions between two communities in Yumbi.

It had nothing to do with last Sunday’s elections in the DRC nor a dispute over delays in the vote count, he said.

“An old rivalry between Banunus and Batende communities led to fresh inter-communal clashes,” Mahecic told reporters in Geneva.

“The reignited dispute is reported to have killed dozens, with around 150 injured arriving in Congo-Brazzaville,” he said.

“This is the largest influx of refugees from the DRC into Congo-Brazzaville in almost in a decade,” he said.

In 2009, some 130,000 people were forced to seek shelter there due to ethnic clashes in DRC’s former Equateur province.

The Republic of Congo currently hosts some 60,000 refugees, mainly from DRC, the Central African Republic and Rwanda.

Mahecic said the latest wave was mostly women and children from the Banunu tribe.

They were continuing to arrive in the districts of Makotipoko and Bouemba, where government authorities and UN agencies are providing medical treatment and other aid, he said.

“Those fleeing DRC talk of attacks that left homes burned and people killed,” he said, pointing to a humanitarian assessment mission to Yumbi which found more than 450 homes destroyed following clashes.

His comments came as the UN Security Council prepared to hold a closed-door meeting about Sunday’s elections in the DRC.

The marathon vote-counting process has sparked opposition fears that the result will be rigged to favour President Joseph Kabila’s preferred successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.

The communal violence in Yumbi, and insecurity and an ongoing Ebola epidemic in part of North Kivu on the other side of the country, prompted authorities to postpone the elections in those areas until March.