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Russia, China push UN to stay out of DR Congo poll dispute

Russia and China led calls at the United Nations Security Council on Friday for world powers to stay out of an election dispute in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Western nations and observers have questioned the outcome of the December 30 poll, in which opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi was declared the winner, with Belgium, France and the United States saying they await details from election authorities on the vote count.

The council heard competing appeals from the DR Congo’s poll chief to accept the result, while the head of the Catholic bishops conference urged the top UN body to demand the release of data from polling stations to allow verification.

China and Russia made clear that the top UN body should be concerned by the stability of the DR Congo as it undertakes what is set to be the first peaceful handover of power since its independence from Belgium in 1960.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said “any speculation” about the vote was “unacceptable” and “liable to generate far-reaching repercussions for stability both in the DRC and the entire Great Lakes region.”

China’s envoy Ma Zhaoxu called for “full respect” of the authority of the CENI election commission that organized the vote and announced the outcome.

“We believe that the people of the DRC have the ability and wisdom to resolve the relevant issues in their own way,” said Ma.

– Dispel doubt –

There are suspicions that President Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001, has entered into a deal with Tshisekedi to hand him the presidency after his hand-picked candidate came in third place.

Opposition rival Martin Fayulu, who came in a close second, has dismissed the result and announced he will challenge the outcome before the Constitutional Court.

Bishop Marcel Utembi, who heads the CENCO Catholic bishop conference, renewed his claim that the announced results are not in line with the data collected by its 40,000 observers, suggesting that Fayulu was the winner.

Utembi argued that the release of the records of vote-counting at the polling stations could “dispel doubt among the population as to the outcome and may therefore set minds at rest.”

Corneille Nangaa, president of the CENI electoral commission, responded that the voting data could only be handed to the Constitutional Court in line with DR Congo legislation.

“There are only two options to address this: either to confirm the result of the CENI or to cancel the election,” said Nangaa.

“Canceling the election would mean that the institutions in place would continue to remain in place because we would not have a president until new elections are organized,” he added.

South Africa, a non-permanent council member, urged world powers to be supportive, with Ambassador Jerry Matjila stressing that DR Congo had “come a long way in the quest of peace of security.”

France proposed that the council adopt a statement welcoming the vote and calling on all sides to “build a national consensus in a peaceful and legal manner,” said French Ambassador Francois Delattre.