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Congo Calm After Election Win Verified 01/20 10:03

   KINSHASA, Congo (AP) -- Congo's capital was calm Sunday with residents 
attending church after the Constitutional Court confirmed the presidential 
election victory of Felix Tshisekedi. It was not clear if the population would 
heed runner-up Martin Fayulu's call for non-violent protests against the court 
ruling.

   Tshisekedi said early Sunday that the court's decision to reject claims of 
electoral fraud and declare him president was a victory for the entire country.

   "It is Congo that won," said Tshisekedi, speaking to his supporters after 
the court decision. "It is not the victory of one camp against another. I am 
engaged in a campaign to reconcile all Congolese. ... The Congo that we are 
going to form will not be a Congo of division, hatred or tribalism. It will be 
a reconciled Congo, a strong Congo that will be focused on development, peace 
and security."

   Supporters of his UDPS party celebrated the victory into the early morning 
hours, in motorcade processions through the capital's main streets.

   But Fayulu's declaration that he is Congo's "only legitimate president" and 
call for the Congolese people to peacefully protest against what he called a 
"constitutional coup d'etat" threatened to keep the country in a political 
crisis that has been simmering since the Dec. 30 elections.

   The court turned away Fayulu's request for a recount of the vote, affirming 
Tshisekedi won with more than 7 million votes, or 38 percent, and Fayulu 
received 34 percent.

   The court judgment, released in the early hours of Sunday, said Fayulu 
offered no proof to back his assertions that he had won easily based on leaked 
data attributed the electoral commission. It also called unfounded another 
challenge filed by Fayulu that objected to the electoral commission's 
last-minute decision to bar some 1 million voters from the election over a 
deadly Ebola virus outbreak.

   Fayulu and his supporters have also, outside the court, alleged an 
extraordinary backroom deal by outgoing President Joseph Kabila to rig the vote 
in favor of Tshisekedi.

   "It's a secret for no one inside or outside of our country that you have 
elected me president," with 60 percent of the votes, Fayulu said in his 
statement. "I now consider myself the only legitimate president of the DRC."

   Fayulu urged Congolese to take to the streets to peacefully protest. Neither 
Congolese nor the international community should recognize Tshisekedi, nor obey 
him, Fayulu added.

   Congo's government on Sunday called Fayulu's statements "irresponsible."

   "We consider it an irresponsible statement that is highly politically 
immature. I do not think he has understood the issues that are happening and at 
the regional level and at the global level with the Democratic Republic of 
Congo and that's a shame," government spokesman Lambert Mende told The 
Associated Press on Sunday.

   The largely untested Tshisekedi, son of the late, charismatic opposition 
leader Etienne, is set to be inaugurated on Jan. 22. The government is expected 
to resign in the coming days, and the new National Assembly will be installed 
on Jan. 26 with a small group of members who will then validate the 500 
deputies, the majority of whom belong to Kabila's Common Front for Congo party.

   Many worried that the court's rejection of the appeal could lead to greater 
instability in a nation that already suffers from rebels, communal violence and 
an Ebola outbreak.

   "It might produce some demonstrations, but it won't be as intense as it was 
in 2017 and 2018," said Andrew Edward Tchie, research fellow at the 
International Institute for Strategic Studies.

   Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza promptly congratulated the new 
president-elect in a Tweet on Sunday.

   "Through a fully organized electoral process without outside influence and 
the wisdom of President Kabila, the #RDC has just defended its dignity and 
sovereignty. The #Burundi congratulates the elected President, HE Flix A. 
Tshisekedi and the step taken by the Congolese people," he said.

   The Southern African Development Community on Sunday congratulated 
President-elect Tshisekedi and Congo for conducting elections in a peaceful 
manner "despite the security and logistical challenges." The group had last 
week suggested a recount and a possible unity government.

   The 16-nation regional bloc called "upon all Congolese to accept the 
outcome, and consolidate democracy and maintain a peaceful and stable 
environment following the landmark elections." The body called on "all 
stakeholders to support the President-elect and his government in maintaining 
unity, peace and stability; and attaining socio-economic development in the 
DRC. SADC looks forward to a peaceful transfer of power to the President-elect.

   Tanzania's President John Magufuli also sent congratulations on Twitter.

   In addition to congratulating Tshisekedi on his election as Congo's next 
president, Magufuli praised the people of Congo. "I beseech you to maintain 
peace," he wrote.

   All of the election results, not just the presidential ones, had been widely 
questioned after Kabila's ruling coalition won a majority in legislative and 
provincial votes while its presidential candidate finished a distant third.

   Despite this, Congo, a country of 80 million people, rich in the minerals 
key to smartphones around the world, is moving close to its first peaceful, 
democratic transfer of power since independence in 1960.


(KA)

 
 
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