Congo’s Kabila Set to Extend Rule Amid Fears of Violence

Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila
Joseph Kabila, president of Democratic Republic of Congo. Photographer: Stephane De Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images

Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila looked set to extend his 10-year rule as the U.S. joined other governments warning that the mineral-rich country’s election results may trigger violence.

Kabila leads his main rival, Etienne Tshisekedi, 49 percent to 33 percent with 89 percent of polling stations reporting, Daniel Ngoy Mulunda, the head of the electoral commission, told reporters in Kinshasa, the capital, yesterday. The commission delayed announcing provisional results for 48 hours in order to complete counting, he said. The outcome had been scheduled to be released yesterday, the final day of Kabila’s five-year mandate.

The results so far “indicate a nearly unsurpassable lead by President Kabila, even factoring in a surge of votes for Tshisekedi in his under-reported strongholds,” Philippe de Pontet, Africa director at Eurasia Group, the New York-based research company, said in an e-mailed note. “The balance of remaining districts to be counted does not favor Tshisekedi enough to erode the president’s lead.”

Thousands have fled Congo fearing violence after at least 18 civilians were killed and 100 wounded before the Nov. 28 poll. Most of the dead were shot by Kabila’s security forces, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch. Tshisekedi and his party rejected preliminary results, saying the figures were impossible to verify.

U.S. Alert

The U.S. State Department issued an alert to citizens visiting the Central African country and warned that the ability of its embassy in Kinshasa to assist Americans may be limited as a result of employee travel being restricted. Assistance may be further constrained by the “fluid security situation,” it said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.

Seventy-eight-year-old Tshisekedi, one of 10 opposition candidates running against Kabila, rejected the preliminary results as fraudulent and has said that if Mulunda and Kabila release a final tally in line with the preliminary results it would be “suicidal.”

Riot police and soldiers have fanned out throughout the Kinshasa. Albert Moleka, Tshisekedi’s chief of staff, called on the police and military to withdraw, saying that Tshisekedi’s supporters would cause no trouble if the vote counting is transparent. Tshisekedi agreed to the delay on the vote count if it contributes to transparency, Moleka said in a phone interview yesterday.

‘Peaceful Outcome’

“We’re convinced that the electoral commission will acknowledge the reality of the vote and that will allow us a peaceful outcome,” Jacquemain Shabani, head of Tshisekedi’s party, told reporters today in Kinshasa. He blamed concerns about violence on the threat posed by Kabila’s security forces.

The African Union, European Union, International Criminal Court and United Nations have called for calm once the results are announced. South African President Jacob Zuma, who heads the security unit for the Southern African Development Community, spoke on Dec. 5 to Kabila, Tshisekedi and former national assembly speaker Vital Kamerhe, who also is also a candidate, appealing for a peaceful outcome.

“I urge leaders, commanders, and politicians on all sides to calm your supporters,” ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in an e-mailed statement from The Hague. “Electoral violence is no longer a ticket to power, I assure you. It is a ticket to The Hague.”

Congo is Africa’s second-biggest copper producer after Zambia, holds about a third of the world’s cobalt reserves and is the continent’s largest producer of tin ore. It is also an important source of columbite-tantalite, the mineral known as coltan that is used in mobile phones and computers.

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