Second call for DR Congo vote recount

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A second African bloc called for a recount of Democratic Republic of Congo’s contested presidential election, raising pressure on Kinshasa to fix a dispute that could fan unrest.

The December 30 vote was supposed to herald Congo’s first democratic transfer of power in six decades of independence and a new era after President Joseph Kabila’s chaotic 18-year rule.

Monitoring groups noted widespread irregularities including faulty voting machines and poorly run polling stations, overshadowing talk of democratic progress in the country of 80 million people.

Second-place finisher, former Exxon Mobil executive Martin Fayulu, says he won by a landslide with over 60% of the vote and official winner, opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi, struck a deal with Kabila to be declared the victor.

Tshisekedi and Kabila deny this.

The International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (CIRGL), a 12-member body including Kinshasa allies Angola and Republic of Congo, expressed “great concern” at the controversy.

“We suggest competent structures consider counting the votes in order to guarantee the transparency of the results,” it said in a statement.

International pressure on Kabila has built since the vote, in part because Congo’s influential Catholic Church said tallies by its 40,000-strong monitoring team show a different winner to that announced by the electoral commission.

France, Belgium, the United States and Britain all expressed concern about the vote. Perceived criticism in Africa could hold greater sway in Congo.

The CIRGL statement echoed a statement from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which contains allies of Kinshasa like South Africa and Angola.

Approval of election results from regional partners are critical to the legitimacy of president-elect Tshisekedi.

Spokespeople for Kabila and Tshisekedi were not reachable for comment on the statements from African bodies.

Fayulu has welcomed recount calls.

Isolated post-election violence in Congo has many fearing a return to the type of conflict and upheaval that killed millions and destabilised the region.