DR Congo’s disputed presidential election

he Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has declared a surprise winner in its presidential election, a verdict that represents both promise and peril for the African nation.

Election officials in the DRC announced Thursday that opposition leader Félix Tshisekedi had won the election, which took place on December 30. But there’s widespread speculation that Tshisekedi’s victory is illegitimate.

Leaders of the Catholic Church, which deployed tens of thousands of election observers, called into question election officials’ conclusions, saying the numbers don’t add up.

Instead, many people believe that a different opposition leader, former Exxon Mobil executive Martin Fayulu, won the election outright, though the church stopped short of declaring him the victor. Fayulu has called the results an “electoral coup.”

Minor clashes have been reported in the wake of the disputed elections, including a demonstration that reportedly left at least four people dead in the western part of the country, including two police officers. But there are fears that these tensions could erupt into large-scale violence in a country that’s already besieged by conflict and battling a deadly Ebola epidemic in the east.

It also obscures what would otherwise be a remarkable outcome for the DRC: the peaceful transfer of power, the first since the country’s independence from Belgium in 1960.

Joseph Kabila, the extremely corrupt outgoing president, has been in power since 2001, when he took over after his father, Laurent Kabila, was assassinated. (The elder Kabila came to power in 1997, during a rebellion that unseated the longtime military dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.)

Joseph Kabila was term-limited out of his presidency in 2016, but he postponed the election until 2018 so he could try to change the constitution and snag another term. But he finally relented under international pressure. After delays, and some suspicious mishaps — like when a fire destroyed 10,000 voting machines in the capital, Kinshasa, in December 2018 — elections finally began on December 30.

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