Congo-Kinshasa: U.S. Deploys Troops to Gabon Over Possible DR Congo Violence

Vehicles in a warehouse of the Independent National Electoral Commission in Kinshasa were destroyed by a fire on December 13, 2018.

Concerns are mounting that violence will erupt in DR Congo over last Sunday's contested election. The vote was marred by delays, irregularities and voting problems.

US President Donald Trump deployed 80 US military personnel to Gabon in response to possible violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo following a disputed election.

In a letter to Congress, Trump said the troops were sent in response to "the possibility that violent demonstrations may occur" in DR Congo in reaction to the December 30 elections.

The combat troops and supporting military aircraft would provide security to US citizens, personnel and diplomatic facilities in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, should the need arise.

"Additional forces may deploy to Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, or the Republic of Congo, if necessary for these purposes. These deployed personnel will remain in the region until the security situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo becomes such that their presence is no longer needed," the letter stated.

Marred election

The election to replace President Joseph Kabila was marked by delays, irregularities and voting problems, threatening to tip the giant African country into further into violence. The electoral commission is slated to release provision results on Sunday, but there may be a delay because of slow vote counting.

The government has also shut down the internet, blocked SMS messages and restricted the media, casting a shadow over the vote's credibility.

The opposition has expressed concern that the vote could be stolen by Kabila, who had delayed elections for two years after the end of his second and final term. The delayed election triggered a violent political standoff that left dozens dead across the country.

Kabila's preferred successor, the former Interior Minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, ran on the ruling party's ticket. The opposition has been split between two main candidates, Martin Fayulu, a former Exxon Mobil manager who was a relative unknown months ago, and Felix Tshisekedi, the son of late opposition icon Etienne Thisekedi.

The election would be the first democratic transfer of power since the country gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

An opinion poll by the New York University-affiliated Congo Research Group days before the vote put Fayulu in the lead with 44 percent, followed by Tshisekedi at 24 percent and Shadary lagging behind with 18 percent.

The DR Congo's influential Catholic Church, which had deployed 41,000 election monitors, said on Thursday that it knew who had won the election and called on electoral authorities to publish the correct results.

The church is not allowed to announce the results as DR Congo's regulations only allow the electoral commission to declare the outcome.

In response, the electoral commission accused the Church on Friday of "preparing an insurrection" by declaring that it knew the winner of the election.

The tensions come as international pressure is mounting on the government to release accurate election results. On Friday, the UN Security Council met behind closed doors to discuss the Congo.

cw/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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