A supporter of Felix Tshisekedi, leader of the Congolese main opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) who was announced as the winner of the presidential elections stands in front of police officers as he celebrates in the streets of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, January 10, 2019. (Baz Ratner/REUTERS)

Canada calls for calm amid dispute over DRC election results

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Canada is hopeful that the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo remains calm after the runner-up in the disputed presidential election refused to recognize the surprise win of another opposition candidate and urged his supporters to “rise up,” Canadian officials say.

Ottawa is calling on political actors to resolve all disputes in a peaceful manner and remain respectful of institutions, said a statement by Global Affairs Canada released late Thursday evening.

“Canada expects that the choice expressed by the Congolese people on this occasion will be respected,” the statement said.

“Canada stresses the importance of holding free, fair and transparent elections and building on independent democratic institutions to enable the Congolese people to build a strong and healthy democracy.”

Congo runner-up Martin Fayulu announced on Friday he will file a court challenge to the presidential election results, while his opposition coalition asserted he actually received 61 percent of the vote according to the findings of the influential Catholic Church’s observers.

Fayulu spoke to hundreds of supporters who gathered in the capital, Kinshasa, to denounce what they called “the people’s stolen victory.”

Martin Fayulu Congolese joint opposition presidential candidate speaks during a press conference in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, January 8, 2019. (Baz Ratner/REUTERS)

A heavy police presence was on hand. A businessman and vocal campaigner against Congo’s widespread corruption, Fayulu accuses outgoing President Joseph Kabila of making a backroom deal with the surprise declared winner, largely untested opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi.

The Catholic Church, the rare authority that many Congolese find trustworthy, has said its 40,000 election observers found a different winner from the official results but it has not given details. Diplomats briefed on the findings say they found Fayulu won easily. France and former colonial power Belgium also expressed doubts.

The church’s findings showed Tshisekedi received just 18 percent of the vote, just ahead of ruling party candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, Fayulu’s coalition asserted.

Fayulu urged that Congo’s electoral commission publish detailed results, polling station by polling station, and said he would file his court challenge on Saturday morning.

The vote had been intended as Congo’s first democratic transfer of power in six decades, but instead threatens to reawaken violence in the huge and tumultuous nation where millions have died during civil wars since the 1990s.

“When you know you are in the right, you are not allowed to remain home,” Fayulu said, urging supporters to “rise up.”

With files from The Associated Press and Reuters

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