[Dehai-WN] (Reuters): Congo scrambles to tally presidential votes

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Tue, 6 Dec 2011 22:24:02 +0100

Congo scrambles to tally presidential votes

Tue Dec 6, 2011 7:55pm GMT

* Electoral body says full tally may be delayed

* Security heavy, banks close in tense Kinshasa

* Neighbouring Congo Rep. prepares refugee camp (`Adds opposition, ICC

By Jonny Hogg

KINSHASA, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Congo's election commission said it might not be
able to announce a winner for last week's presidential election on Tuesday
due to logistical delays, despite dispatching helicopters to ferry results
from remote polling stations.

A delay in issuing full preliminary results from the vote in the vast
central African state could further complicate an election already marred by
violence, logistical problems and allegations of fraud.

In Kinshasa, tired election workers scrambled to collate results from the
Nov. 28 vote while diplomats sought to defuse tensions that have been
building in anticipation of a result.

Partial preliminary results, representing nearly 70 percent of the ballots
cast, give President Joseph Kabila a 10-point lead over his chief rival,
Etienne Tshisekedi. But the opposition has said it will reject the outcome.

"We want to keep to the date of December 6, but we've had some logistical
problems, these have hampered us," electoral body spokesman Mathieu Mpita
said. "If we don't have the full initial tallies, we will release partial

The electoral commission set the deadline for a full preliminary count for
Dec. 6, the fifth anniversary of Kabila's inauguration and the day the
opposition says marks the end of his constitutional term.

"They know perfectly well that President Kabila cannot have even one hour
more of his mandate after midnight," said Alexis Mutanda, president of
Tshisekedi's campaign.

Mutanda said opposition party leaders were planning on how to respond if
results are not announced.

U.N.-led diplomatic efforts are under way to allow a delay to the results if
needed, according to sources.

Zambia's former president Rupiah Banda has said he is ready to help mediate
any dispute arising from the vote but Kabila's camp has so far said he is
not needed.

In a sign of tension, hundreds of Tshisekedi supporters gathered outside his
residence on Tuesday shouting slogans of support and many carrying machetes,
stones and petrol bombs, a Reuters witness said. Security forces kept a

At least 18 people have been killed in election-related violence, according
to U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, and Kabila's camp has warned the
government would have to call in the army if protests become "too chaotic".

"We are not going to fall into the trap of massacring our own people," said
Aubin Minaku, secretary-general of the ruling coalition backing Kabila. "The
police will work to maintain peace, but they will not fall into that trap."

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court warned on Tuesday that
those responsible for the violence in Congo would face justice, adding that
the court was closely watching the situation of the ground.

"Electoral violence is no longer a ticket to power, I assure you. It is a
ticket to The Hague," the office of the prosecutor said in a statement.

Laurent Gbagbo, the former leader of Ivory Coast who refused to cede power
after a presidential election last year, appeared in court at the Hague for
the first time on Monday.

Congo's first locally organised and funded election since the official end
in 2003 of years of war that killed 5.4 million people was meant to offer
hope of greater stability.

But fears are mounting that a rejection of the results will unleash
bloodshed. Tshisekedi enjoys broad support in Kinshasa, a city of 10 million
people, as well as the two southern Kasai provinces, which have seen
security beefed up in recent days.


There was a heavy security presence on the streets of the capital on
Tuesday, and some residents piled into boats to cross the Congo River into
neighbouring Congo Republic, fearing renewed violence after the results.

The Congo Republic's government said it was preparing an encampment in case
an outbreak of violence in Kinshasa triggers a larger refugee wave.

Banks across Kinshasa shut early on Tuesday and the city's normally chaotic
central market was quiet, while the US embassy restricted staff to their
homes until further notice.

"I have my normal clients, but they aren't here. I don't know if they are
scared," said Rose Nsele, sitting next to a pile of manioc leaves she had
been unable to sell.

Congo's election commission defied the odds to hold the presidential and
parliamentary vote on time on Nov. 28. Often chaotic and at times violent,
voting had to be stretched over three days due to delays in places.

International observers say the various steps of the counting process after
the initial tally at polling stations had been poorly organised, with
ballots and results sheets often lost or destroyed in the process.

Joseph Kabila, who succeeded his father Laurent Kabila after he was shot
dead in 2001, won U.N.-sponsored elections in 2006 promising he would bring
an end to a decade of chaos.

But his government has struggled against local and foreign rebel groups in
the east and Congo remains among the most risky countries in which to do
business. (Additional reporting by Christian Tsoumou in Brazzaville, Chris
Mfula in Lusaka, and Emmanuel Braun in Kinshasa; Writing by Richard
Valdmanis; Editing by Bate Felix and David Lewis)

C Thomson Reuters 2011 All rights reserved


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