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Democratic Republic of Congo court declares Felix Tshisekedi is elected president

The African Union had asked Congo to delay announcing the final election results

Supporters of DR Congo's President-elect Felix Tshisekedi holds up a placard that reads 'Rwanda for Rwandans' as an apparent reference to the African Union (AU) delegation that includes the President of Rwanda Paul Kagame. EPA
Supporters of DR Congo's President-elect Felix Tshisekedi holds up a placard that reads 'Rwanda for Rwandans' as an apparent reference to the African Union (AU) delegation that includes the President of Rwanda Paul Kagame. EPA

Democratic Republic of Congo's Constitutional Court early on Sunday declared the election of Felix Tshisekedi as president, rejecting challenges to the vote by runner-up Martin Fayulu, who had alleged fraud.

Mr Tshisekedi, son of the late, charismatic opposition leader Etienne, is now set to be inaugurated on Tuesday.

The declaration came shortly after the African Union in an unprecedented move asked Congo to delay announcing the final election results, citing "serious doubts" about the vote. It planned to send a high-level delegation on Monday to find a way out of the crisis, fearing unrest spilling across borders of the vast Central African nation.

The court turned away Mr Fayulu's request for a recount in the Dec. 30 vote. He had accused Congo's electoral commission of announcing results dramatically different from ones posted at polling stations around the country. Leaked data attributed to the commission shows that Mr Fayulu easily won.

But the court said Mr Fayulu did not put forward proof to back his claims.

Outside court, Mr Fayulu's supporters have alleged that outgoing President Joseph Kabila made a backroom deal with the largely untested Mr Tshisekedi once it became clear that the ruling party's candidate did poorly in the election. Neither party has acknowledged the accusations.

Congo, rich in the minerals key to smartphones around the world, is moving close to achieving its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since independence in 1960.

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Read more:

Democratic Republic of Congo rejects request to suspend election results

African Union seeks delay of decision on Democratic Republic of Congo presidential vote

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But observers have warned that the court's upholding of the official results could lead to further unrest. At least 34 people have been killed since provisional results were released on January 10, the United Nations has said.

There was no immediate reaction early Sunday from Mr Tshisekedi, who has said little publicly since the election, or Mr Fayulu. Many people in the courtroom erupted in cheers after the declaration, along with Tshisekedi supporters who had gathered outside.

The court could have ordered a recount or ordered a new election.

It called unfounded a challenge filed by another candidate, Theodore Ngoy, 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.

The court said Mr Tshisekedi won with more than 7 million votes, or 38 per cent, and Mr Fayulu received 34 per cent. However, leaked data published by some media outlets, attributed to the electoral commission and representing 86 per cent of the votes, show that Mr Fayulu won 59 percent while Mr Tshisekedi received 19 per cent.

Ahead of the court's decision, both Congo's government and Mr Tshisekedi's party dismissed the AU's request to delay the final results.

Congo's government called it a matter for the court. Mr Tshisekedi's party rejected the request outright.

The continental body's stance is "the work of some mining lobbies seeking to destabilise the Democratic Republic of Congo in order to perpetuate the looting of this country," the secretary-general of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress party, Jean-Marc Kabund, said in a statement.

He called on the Congolese people to mobilise and defend the mineral-rich country's sovereignty.

Ahead of the ruling, hundreds of Mr Tshisekedi's supporters were in the streets of the capital, Kinshasa, waving tree branches and banners reading "Congo for the Congolese."

Updated: January 20, 2019 05:36 AM

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