Congo opposition campaign says it's in touch with Kabila camp on transition

by Reuters
Tuesday, 8 January 2019 18:00 GMT

Agents of Congo's National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) count ballots after election at a polling station in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, December 30, 2018. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

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Kabila is due to step down this month after 18 years in power. His refusal to go when his mandate expired in 2016 sparked protests in which security forces killed dozens of people

By Giulia Paravicini and Stanis Bujakera

KINSHASA, Jan 8 (Reuters) - A Congolese presidential candidate's representatives have met with outgoing President Joseph Kabila's camp to ensure a peaceful transfer of power, they said on Tuesday.

Kabila's camp denied any such meetings had occurred since the Dec. 30 election, for which provisional results are expected this week, but supporters of another candidate, who led opinion polls ahead of the vote, said they feared the government was manoeuvring to squeeze him out of contention.

Members of opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi's campaign said they had spoken with representatives of Kabila's hand-picked candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, in meetings aimed at promoting national reconciliation.

Kabila and Tshisekedi "have an interest in meeting to prepare for the peaceful and civilised transfer of power," Jean-Marc Kabund told a news conference at which he said Tshisekedi was the "presumptive winner".

Tshisekedi's spokesman, Vidiye Tshimanga, later said Kabila and Tshisekedi had not met personally since the election but that their representatives had convened several times.

Supporters of Martin Fayulu, the opposition candidate who had a healthy pre-election poll lead, have voiced suspicions Kabila may be looking to negotiate a power-sharing agreement with Tshisekedi if his preferred candidate, Shadary, loses.

Barnabe Kikaya Bin Karubi, a spokesman for Shadary and one of Kabila's senior advisers, denied there had been contacts with Tshisekedi or his representatives.

Kabila is due to step down this month after 18 years in power. His refusal to go when his mandate expired in 2016 sparked protests in which security forces killed dozens of people.

The election is meant to bring about Congo's first democratic transition in 59 years of independence, but a disputed result could trigger the kind of violence that erupted after 2006 and 2011 elections and destabilise Congo's eastern borderlands with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, where dozen of militia groups are active.

The streets of the eastern city of Goma were deserted on Tuesday evening after a rumour spread that the results were about to be announced. The election board has not given a date for the release of results, which have already been delayed past Sunday's deadline.

On Tuesday, domestic observer mission SYMOCEL said it witnessed 52 major irregularities, including people tampering with results, in the 101 vote counting centres it monitored. There are 179 counting centres tallying the vote across Congo.

Its findings, and those of a Catholic Church observation mission that noted significant irregularities, are likely to fuel complaints about the outcome once it is announced.

In its own news conference on Tuesday, the ruling coalition accused Fayulu's campaign and Catholic bishops of trying to stoke post-election violence.

Last week, the bishops said they knew the winner of the election, a declaration widely seen as a warning to authorities against rigging the vote. (Writing by Aaron Ross Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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