* Kabila declared provisional winner of Nov. 28 poll
* Election commission chief calls for calm
* Opposition says result is "totally unacceptable"
* Clashes in Kinshasa between protesters, security forces
* United States calls for transparent election process
(Adds U.S. government reaction, paragraphs 4-5)
By Jonny Hogg
KINSHASA, Dec 9 The main challenger in
Democratic Republic of Congo's election declared himself
president on Friday and poured scorn on provisional official
results handing victory to incumbent Joseph Kabila.
Clashes broke out between tire-burning protesters and
security forces in the mostly pro-opposition capital, Kinshasa,
and fears mounted a post-election dispute would reignite
conflict in the war-scarred central African state.
The head of the electoral commission said on Friday Kabila
won nearly 49 percent of the votes to rival Etienne
Tshisekedi's roughly 32 percent, results an observer group
later said appeared suspicious.
In Washington, the Obama administration called on Congolese
authorities to complete the election process "with maximum
openness and transparency."
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland also said the
Kinshasa government "remains responsible for providing security
for the people of the Congo" and that anyone involved in
violence "must be held accountable."
Electoral commission chief Daniel Ngoy Mulunda called for
calm. "(The results) are no reason to whip up the population
against the established order to contest the results, or to
settle scores," he told officials and diplomats gathered to
hear the results.
Tshisekedi said he rejected Kabila's victory and considered
himself the newly elected leader of Congo.
"I consider these results a real provocation of the
Congolese people," he said in an interview on RFI radio. "As a
consequence, I consider myself, from today, the elected
president of the Democratic Republic of Congo."
Opposition supporters burned tires in parts of Kinshasa, a
sprawling city of 10 million, and chanted Tshisekedi's campaign
slogan, "The people first." A U.N. source said there had been
clashes with security forces and reports of shooting.
Gunfire erupted in Mbuji Mayi, an opposition stronghold in
the south of the country, an hour after Kabila was named
winner, a local civil society leader said. "We can hear
gunshots everywhere, it's still going on," he told Reuters.
Celebration broke out in other parts of the country.
More Congo stories [ID:nL5E7MF2IH]
FACTBOX-Congo's record of instability [ID:nL5E7MS1UE]
Country profile [ID:nL5E7MS1UG]
At least 18 people have been killed in election-related
violence, according to U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, as
opposition protesters took to the streets alleging the
government was attempting to rig the vote.
The Nov. 28 poll was Congo's first locally organized
presidential contest since a war that killed more than 5
million, and is meant to move the country toward stability and
encourage investment after years of conflict and turmoil.
Government Communications Minister Lambert Mende said
Tshisekedi's self-declaration as president was "nonsense and
illegal" and warned that it could spark violence.
"We're calling for Mr. Thshisekedi to come back to legality
and not to threaten the peace of the country just because the
people didn't choose him," he told Reuters by telephone.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Congolese on
Friday to avoid violence over the results. [ID:nN1E7B80GO]
The dispute mirrored a post-vote crisis in Ivory Coast that
sparked a civil war. But unlike in Ivory Coast, the U.N.
mission will not be in a position to take sides, as it does not
have a mandate to certify the results and did not observe the
The announcement of the result had been delayed twice
earlier in the week due to logistical problems and as donor
nations urged more transparency, stretching the nerves of
residents both eager for and worried about the outcome.
An international observer said workers were analyzing
results posted on the election commission website but that
they had already spotted a number of irregularities, notably in
Katanga, where Kabila scored particularly well.
In some districts of Katanga, voter turnout was pegged at
nearly 100 percent with all or nearly all of the votes going to
Kabila, according to the website. (click here for an example:
"These results aren't even naturally occurring, you simply
don't get that many people all being healthy, motivated,
getting to the polls and voting in such unison," said David
Pottie, mission manager for the U.S.-based Carter Center.
"It's a fundamental mark of disrespect for Congolese
voters. ... The sole owner of responsibility for this is the
(electoral commission). Its agents have signed off on these
kind of results in multiple places," he said.
The website also showed that the results from nearly 2,000
polling stations in Kinshasa, potentially amounting to about
700,000 votes, had not been tallied.
Third-placed finisher Vital Kamerhe said he also rejected
the results, in part because of the Katanga numbers. "The
Congolese people have chosen Etienne Tshisekedi," he said.
In Katanga's capital, Lubumbashi, the heart of the
country's copper mining industry, residents were blowing
vuvuzela horns and whistles and others were firing guns into
the air in celebration, a foreigner living there said.
"People are singing, there is clearly a lot of joy," he
told Reuters by telephone, asking not to be named.
Britain's Minister for Africa, Henry Bellingham, said he
was concerned by reports of irregularities with the vote, but
urged that "any challenges to the results should be conducted
through the proper channels, not through violence."
"Similarly, the reaction of the security forces to any
disturbances will be key; they need to react proportionately
and avoid escalating confrontations," he said in a statement.
The government of neighbouring Congo Republic said this
week it was preparing a refugee camp north of Brazzaville in
case violence forced people to flee across the Congo River.
Kabila came to power when his father, Laurent, was
assassinated in 2001, and later won the country's 2006
election. He has struggled to control marauding rebel groups in
Congo's east despite U.N. backing.
Congo is last on the U.N. human development index despite
rich mineral resources, and investors say it remains one of the
most challenging countries in the world in which to do
(Additional reporting by Emmanuel Braun in Kinshasa, David
Lewis in London and Andrew Quinn in Washington; Writing by
Richard Valdmanis; Editing by David Lewis, Louise Ireland and