Congo polls "seriously flawed": U.S. envoy

KINSHASA Wed Dec 14, 2011 4:55pm EST

Supporters of incumbent President Joseph Kabila are seen celebrating through a banner with his image after provisional election results are announced in Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa, December 9, 2011. REUTERS/Emmanuel Braun

Supporters of incumbent President Joseph Kabila are seen celebrating through a banner with his image after provisional election results are announced in Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa, December 9, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Emmanuel Braun

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo's elections, won by incumbent President Joseph Kabila according to provisional results, were seriously flawed and lacked transparency, the U.S. ambassador to the central African country said on Wednesday.

The November 28 polls, whose outcome has already been rejected by the opposition, were seen as crucial to reinforcing stability but have been marred by poor organization, delays, violence and accusations of widespread fraud.

The United States has closely followed observer missions including the U.S.-based Carter Center which last week said the results lacked credibility, Ambassador James Entwistle said.

"The United States believes that the management and technical execution of these elections were seriously flawed," Entwistle said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

"(They) lacked transparency and did not measure up to the positive democratic gains we have seen in recent African elections."

The elections are the first Congolese-organized polls since the end of a devastating war in 2003 which left millions dead. An earlier poll in 2006 was organized under the auspices of the United Nations.

The United States and other Western donors are offering technical assistance to the Congolese to review irregularities identified by observer missions, and Congo's prime minister has already welcomed the offer, according to Entwistle.

"It's important that friends of the Congolese people do not only find fault ... Therefore (we) are encouraging the Congolese authorities to closely review the identified irregularities."

The country's Supreme Court must decide by December 17 whether or not to validate provisional results giving Kabila victory with 48.97 percent of the vote against 32.33 percent for nearest rival, Etienne Tshisekedi.

The election process has faced growing criticism from both in and outside the country. The European Union observer mission has said witnesses were prevented from following crucial steps of the process.

At a news conference on Tuesday Kabila accused critics of failing to understand the country, adding that the results of the polls were not in doubt despite some "mistakes."

"People should appreciate that, over a period of ten years we have, as promised, managed to organize elections," he stated.

Official figures showed turnout and support for Kabila running at 100 percent in some areas, while results from nearly 5,000 polling stations, most in the opposition stronghold of Kinshasa, have gone missing.

On Tuesday the electoral commission (CENI) rejected comments by the influential archbishop of Kinshasa Laurent Mosengwo, who said that the results reflected neither truth nor justice. It said the figures referred to by Mosengwo were false.

"CENI invites the population to be wary and to refrain from all manipulation of the election results," said CENI spokesman Mathieu Mpita.

In eastern Congo four opposition leaders, including the local head of Tshisekedi's UDPS party, faced trial on Wednesday accused of inciting civil disobedience after being arrested trying to demonstrate earlier in the week, according to the deputy chief prosecutor of North Kivu province.

(Editing by Mark John and Bate Felix)

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