Congo's Catholic church, France and Belgium have each cast doubt on the presidential election win awarded to Felix Tshisekedi. Rival opposition candidate Martin Fayulu claimed the official result was "fabricated."
Catholic leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Thursday said Tshisekedi's surprise win -- declared pre-dawn by the mineral-rich nation's electoral commission -- did not match tallies compiled by 40,000 monitors deployed by the church for the 30 December election.
Diplomatic sources said the tallies pointed to Fayulu as the winner, although the church via its Episcopal Conference of the Democratic Republic of Congo (CENCO) itself did not name a presumed winner.
"The result of the presidential election as published by CENI [DR Congo's election commission] does not correspond with the data collected by our observer mission from polling stations and counting centers," said Father Donatien Nshole, a spokesman for CENCO, which represents the country's Catholic bishops. who have long pressed for the departure of President Joseph Kabilia.
Celebrations, otherwise somber
Celebrating Tshisekedi supporters converged on his party headquarters in Kinshasa, DR Congo's capital, where the mood was otherwise reported to be largely somber amid memories of elections in 2006 and 2011 that were marred by bloodshed.
"This is the coronation of a lifetime," said Rubens Mikindo, deputy secretary-general of Tshisedeki's party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS).
Tshisekedi, 55, pledged to work closely with Kabila.
"Today we should no longer see him as an adversary, but rather as a partner for democratic change in our country," Tshisekedi said.
Result 'opposite to what we expected,' says Le Drian
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the surprise result was the "opposite to what we expected," based on field observations of the December 30 vote that was marred by voting machine malfunctions and Ebola virus outbreaks.
Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said Thursday that Belgium, Congo's former colonial ruler, would use its temporary UN Security Council seat to "find out what's going on."
Nshole urged DRC's population to peacefully await a 14-day constitutional court validation phase, saying those wanting to challenge the result should use legal means.
Fatal protests in Kikwit
Protests on Thursday in the western city of Kikwit -- a Fayula stronghold -- left dead two civilians and two policemen, with 10 others wounded, said local police. A local journalist and a United Nations source said security forces had opened fire.
Fayulu supporters also vented frustrations in DRC's central city of Kisangani.
The election commission issued its result before dawn Thursday, attributing 38.57 percent to Tshisekedi (the son of Congo's late opposition leader Etienne Tschisekedi), who last year broke away from Fayula.
Fayula, a former Exxon manager and placed second by the electoral commission on 34.8 percent, asserted Thursday that Tshisedeki had emerged top in a deal engineered by Joseph Kabila, DRC's president since 2001.
Results 'negotiated,' says Fayulu
"These results have nothing to do with the truth at the ballot box," Fayulu told Radio France International.
"How long are we going to negotiate results?" asked Fayulu. "In 2006, Jean-Pierre Bemba's victory was stolen. In 2011, Etienne Tshesekedi's victory was stolen. In 2018, victory won't be stolen from Martin Fayulu."
Third-placed on 23.8 percent, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, Kabila's preferred successor, congratulated Tshisekedi through a spokesperson, saying his win represented the "will of the people."
Avoid speculation, urges South Africa's Ramaphosa
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa urged the international community to refrain from speculation and congratulated Congo on its election outcome.
The European Commission said the EU was still awaiting assessments of observer missions. Shortly before the December poll, Congo expelled the EU's ambassador over human rights-related sanctions placed against Shardary.
Sasha Lezhnev, deputy director of the Africa-focused Enough Project, said: "if it looks like the vote was rigged and that Kabila is actually staying in power via a backroom deal, then sanctions and other financial pressure should ensue."
The Democratic Republic Congo, plagued for decades by warfare, has abundant mineral deposits, including coltan sought for mobile phones.
Millions of Congolese remain mired in poverty.
ipj/sms (dpa, AP, Reuters, AFP)