USA sends troops ahead of possible Congo election protests

CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO

DRC poll makes Uganda last Mobutuist state in EA Wednesday January 2 2019 CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO

US President Donald Trump announced Friday that 80 US military personnel had been deployed to the central African country of Gabon in response to violence in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo centering on its disputed presidential elections.

Trump's letter says more military personnel will deploy as needed to Gabon, Congo or neighboring Republic of Congo.

The church, one of Congo's most trusted institutions and representing about 40 percent of its 80 million population, based its finding on tallies from more than 40,000 observers it deployed for the December 30 poll, meant to mark the country's first democratic transfer of power.

The electoral commission's president said it had collected results from about 20 per cent of polling stations, while some Congolese expressed doubt that the first results would be released on Sunday as expected. This could be Congo's first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.

The National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) called on the election commission to "publish the election results in keeping with truth and justice".

The internet has been blocked since Monday, the day after the presidential election.

The United States demanded that "accurate" election results be released, warning of sanctions against anyone who undermined the fledgling democracy.

As official results are tabulated and reported, the USA said it continued to urge DRC government officials, leaders of the DRC security forces, opposition party leaders, civil society representatives, and stakeholders from all sides to respect the law and reject violence.

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Angola and South Africa have been important allies of Kabila over the years, but relations were strained by his refusal to step down when his mandate officially expired in 2016.

The UN Security Council will on Friday hold a closed-door meeting, requested by France, about the elections, diplomats said.

Pre-election polling placed Kabila's preferred candidate, ex-Minister of the Interior Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, significantly behind main opposition candidates, Martin Fayulu and Felix Tshisekedi.

The poll is meant to lead to Congo's first democratic transfer of power, but the worldwide community has raised concerns that a disputed result could cause unrest, as was the case after the 2006 and 2011 elections. It's due to talk about Congo again in a public session Tuesday.

Both Shadary and the opposition say they expect to win the vote.

A CENCO representative told AFP that observers had been refused access to voting centres in two provinces - Lomami and Sankuru.

DR Congo was on edge Saturday, just 24 hours ahead of a deadline for announcing preliminary results from last week's crucial presidential election as world powers heaped pressure on Kinshasa to respect voters' wishes.

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