Catholic church challenges Congo’s surprise election result

Delaying of DRC election results announcement increases likelihood of extension of president's mandate to March

Democratic Republic of Congo opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi was declared the surprise victor of last month's presidential election.

Leading opposition candidate Martin Fayulu has urged the electoral commission to announce the true results as quickly as possible and warned it not to "play with fire, it is very risky".

Careful statements by the worldwide community did not congratulate Tshisekedi, merely taking note of official results and urging peace and stability in a country with little of it. Observers appeared to be watching for the reactions of Fayulu's supporters. Last week the bishops said their observations showed a clear victor - although they did not name Martin Fayulu, the other opposition frontrunner - as that candidate.

Nshole's remarks were made a press conference during which he also remarked on the historic change brought about by the election.

"The result of the presidential election as published by CENI does not correspond with the data collected by our observer mission from polling stations and counting centres", said Father Donatien Nshole, spokesman for CENCO, which represents the country's Catholic bishops.

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Many have seen this election as Congo's first chance at a democratic, peaceful transfer of power since independence in 1960. "This is the beginning of national reconciliation".

The presidents of South Africa and Zambia are urging Congo's electoral commission to "speedily" complete vote-counting and announce the delayed results of the December 30 presidential election.

Two civilians and two policemen were killed Thursday and another 10 people injured when a protest erupted in the western city of Kikwit, a Fayulu stronghold, police said.

But pre-election studies had predicted an easy win for Martin Fayulu, another opposition candidate.

The elections were held on 30 December, but CENI last weekend said provisional results, expected on Sunday, would be held up because of logistical problems.

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Fayulu, who once tweeted that "When the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn", was backed by two popular opposition figures barred from running, former Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba and former governor Moise Katumbi. Dozens of polling centers opened hours late as materials went missing. "They have stolen the Congolese people's victory and the people will never accept that", said Fayulu, an oil tycoon whose platform had been focused on tackling corruption in the former Belgian colony. Some said they would be happy as long as Fayulu or Tshisekedi won, recalling the violence that followed past disputed elections.

Now Congo faces a new leader who is little known after spending many years in Belgium and standing behind his outspoken father.

Asked whether the president-elect is a professional qualified to be President, Mr. Apea argued: " Looking at the past leaders that Africa has had, together with the many broken promises they have uttered, Felix Tshisekedi, is overqualified".

Speaking to thousands of cheering supporters in the capital Kinshasa, Tshisekedi said he would be the president "of all Congolese". He was less visible in campaigning than Fayulu and did not make himself available to reporters after the vote. There were other organisations monitoring the elections, such as the Southern African Development Community, but it isn't clear yet if they agree or disagree with the electoral commission's provisional election results.

An official from the United Nations' peacekeeping operations said Tshisekedi's win might lead to some temporary calm.

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