, KINSHASA, Dec 4 – Veteran DR Congo opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi on Saturday issued a veiled threat of fresh violence after saying he rejected early election results showing President Joseph Kabila ahead.
Monday’s vote, just the second since back-to-back wars that gripped the Democratic Republic of Congo from 1996 to 2003, was marred by deadly violence and rioting at polling centres and the long wait for results has been filled with tensions.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) released updated results Saturday showing Kabila ahead of Tshisekedi by 51 percent to 34 percent, with 33 percent of polling centres counted.
But the tally included more of the incumbent’s traditional strongholds in the restive central African country than those of his main rival.
Tshisekedi said his party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), had a warning for Kabila and CENI chief Daniel Ngoy Mulunda.
“I’m warning Mr Ngoy Mulunda that the UDPS not only rejects these results, but warns Mr Ngoy Mulunda and Mr Kabila to respect the will of the Congolese people in publishing the results that will follow,” he said.
“I’m going to say that, if they don’t, they risk committing suicidal acts. I call all our people to stay vigilant so that if needed they can execute the orders I will give them.”
The latest results included 55 percent of polling centres in Katanga province, where Kabila is traditionally popular, but just three percent of polling centres in Kinshasa, where Tshisekedi has strong support.
The other nine candidates were trailing far behind. Ex-national assembly speaker Vital Kamerhe was in third place with five percent.
Provisional results were originally not expected until Tuesday, but the CENI decided to release early returns from Friday, saying it wanted to staunch the flood of rumours and false reports about the count.
It said it would again provide a new update Sunday. The supreme court is due to declare a final official result from the race on December 17.
The long wait for the outcome has filled with speculation, conspiracy theories and dirty tricks.
The CENI said its website had been hacked Friday and fake results showing Tshisekedi in the lead were briefly posted there.
On the streets of Kinshasa, a table of results purportedly from the non-existent International Democracy Observatory showed Kabila up by 22 points.
As a host of election-related rumours circulated by text message, SMS service crashed Friday evening in Kinshasa.
Rumours immediately emerged that the government had ordered cell phone operators to interrupt text messaging — speculation the government and leading mobile company Vodacom both denied.
But an interior ministry source told AFP Saturday that the government had in fact ordered cell phone operators to block texting services indefinitely “because of the diffusion of false results.”
Adding to the charged atmosphere, Human Rights Watch said Friday that election-related violence had killed at least 18 civilians.
The New York-based rights group said most of the victims were shot dead by Kabila’s presidential guard near the capital’s main airport during a crackdown on Tshisekedi supporters who had gathered for his final campaign rally Saturday.
Other civilians were killed and wounded during clashes between rival parties, attacks by armed groups and mob violence, HRW said.
The government said Saturday it had ordered a military inquiry into the report.
“(The government) wants to get to the bottom of this story, and insistently asks HRW to hand in all elements and information in its possession, which is an obligation under Congolese law, so that punishments can be imposed if necessary,” said government spokesman and communications minister Lambert Mende.
Earlier, Mende had told AFP: “There wasn’t a single person killed or wounded” near the airport.
He acknowledged some of the report’s findings, but accused HRW of making “gratuitous accusations” against the presidential guard, which he said fired shots in the air to disperse a hostile crowd.
The UN Security Council added its voice Friday to the multiplying calls for peace, saying “all candidates should maintain a calm and peaceful environment, exercise restraint, await the results… and resolve their differences peacefully.”