DRC Presidential election winner now known: Gvt asked to release results

The count is underway after Sunday's vote to determine who succeeds Joseph Kabila as president after his 18 years in power. AFP  File  Luis TATO

Blocking internet in Congo may lead to violence, UN warns

Democratic Republic of Congo's influential Roman Catholic Church said on 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.

The statement also refers to the election observers the National Episcopal Electoral Conference of Congo (Cenco) and an alliance of citizens' observer missions, Symocel.

Thirty-eight per cent of the some 40,000 polling stations the mission observed were still missing electoral materials more than three hours after polls opened on Sunday, the mission said.

"Respect of the election results is crucial", AU Commission chief Faki Mahamat tweeted.

CENI is scheduled to release provisional results on Sunday. "This is one of those moments for the DRC", US State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement. It's due to discuss Congo again in a public session Tuesday. "They are clearly trying to prolong the process to manipulate the truth of the ballots", said Vidiye Tshimanga. Kabila had repeatedly refused to step down after 18-years in power and despite his official term in office ending in 2016 after his two-term constitutional limit was up.

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 last week.

A total of 21 candidates including Kabila's handpicked successor, former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, are vying for the presidency. A separate team counted ballots as observers and political parties' witnesses watched. AFP/JOHN THYS, Junior D.

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The church, a powerful voice in the heavily Catholic nation, deployed some 40,000 electoral observers but could not say who the clear victor appeared to be, as Congo's electoral regulations forbid anyone but the electoral commission to announce results.

"The consolidation of the results must continue with transparency", Delattre told reporters.

"We are working around the clock".

The final results of the ballot - the country's first multi-party elections since 1960 - are due on January 15 amid fears of violence. Results from all 73,000 voting stations would then be consolidated, he said.

"The holding of these elections constitutes, in itself, a first great victory for the Congolese people", it said. Speaking after the meeting, France's United Nations ambassador only said the Security Council is keeping close watch on vote counting in the presidential election in Congo.

The move to cut internet access and block RFI broadcasts drew a sharp rebuke from Paris on Thursday.

"Now more than ever the Congolese people need assurance that the authorities are genuinely committed to the respect for human rights and allowing people to access information from diverse sources and communicate freely is a key part of that".

The country lived through two fully-fledged wars between 1996 and 2003 that claimed millions of lives through bloodshed, fighting, starvation and disease. The election, which is meant to mark Congo's first democratic transfer of power, has already been marred by violence and logistical problems.

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