DR Congo's Catholic Church says its election tally shows different victor

He was a vocal activist during the two-year delay in Congo's election, insisting it was time to Kabila to go.

Supporters of the surprise Democratic Republic of Congo presidential victor have celebrated in the capital as the rival opposition candidate denounced the result as fraudulent.

"Publication of provisional results from presidential elections, on Wednesday, 9 January", said a large banner placed in the press room of the Independent National Election Commission (CENI). If the presidential candidates wish to contest the provisional results and obtain greater clarity, they should do so using legal means.

But his apparent victory was not without controversy, with opposition rival Martin Fayulu, who came a close second, denouncing the result as an "electoral coup".

In a news conference just hours after the announcement was made, Fayulu, who represented the opposition Lamuka Coalition during the poll, said: "We reject categorically the result published by Mr Nangaa (election commission president Corneille Nangaa)".

Just hours later, the Church said election results tallied by its 40,000 observers scattered across the country showed a different victor, without specifying who. Three diplomats briefed on the Church's mission said their findings clearly showed Fayulu had won.

"We must have clarity on these results, which are the opposite to what we expected", French Foreign Minister Yves le Drian urged. "In 2006, Jean-Pierre Bemba's victory was stolen, in 2011 Étienne Tshisekedi's victory was stolen".

"The electoral victory of opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi is highly surprising, but the decision makes sense in the context of DRC's political dynamics", said Robert Besseling of EXX Intelligence, a risk consultancy on Africa.

However, given the power the Church has in the Congo their questioning of the official result could boost Fayulu's challenge to a Tshisekedi presidency.

"This is the coronation of a lifetime", the deputy secretary-general of Tshisekedi's party, Rubens Mikindo, said shortly after the announcement that his candidate had won, above the cheers at party headquarters.

The announcement of an opposition win was a shock as many had expected the results to be stacked in Shadary's favour, prompting heavy global pressure on Kinshasa to respect the wishes of the electorate.

The nation has never had a peaceful transfer of power via elections and Mr Tshisekedi's win looked hollow after suggestions of a deal with the incumbent, Joseph Kabila, 47, to protect him from being investigated for corruption.

President Joseph Kabila is due to leave office this month after 18 years in power and backed his former interior minister, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, in the election.

DR Congo's government cut internet services the day after the vote to prevent speculation on social media.

Mineral-rich DRC has been in the grip of a two-year crisis over the succession of Kabila, who announced last year he would finally step down after almost two decades in power.

Mr. Apea asked all institutions in the DRC, from "the sacred to the secular", to respect the results of the Electoral Commission of the DRC and let peace prevail. "This is the beginning of national reconciliation".

Now Congo faces a new leader who is little known after spending many years in Belgium and standing behind his outspoken father.

  • Rogelio Becker