By Emmanuel Peuchot (AFP) – Dec 12, 2011
KINSHASA — DR Congo President Joseph Kabila admitted Monday there were flaws in the elections that handed him a new five-year term but rejected a report that they lacked credibility.
The assessment was Kabila's first public statement since the bitterly disputed November 28 vote, whose outcome sparked violent protests in the capital and was criticised by international observers and the country's powerful church.
"Were there mistakes, errors? Definitely, like in any other election, be it on the continent or otherwise," Kabila, in power since 2001, told a news conference in Kinshasa with journalists including the BBC.
"But does it put in doubt the credibility of the elections? I don't think so."
In a damning report on the polls, international observers from the Carter Center, a non-profit group founded by former US president Jimmy Carter, said Saturday it had found irregularities ranging from the loss of some 3,000 polling stations' results to "impossibly high" turnout rates in Kabila strongholds.
It said the count was so flawed the results "lack credibility".
Kabila said Monday he rejected that finding.
"The credibility of these elections cannot be put in doubt," he said.
The president of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), Daniel Ngoy Mulunda, also dismissed the report, saying the Carter Center's 70 observers had made a "partial judgement" based on visits to 25 of 169 counting centres.
"They draw their conclusions from 25 counting centres and want to smear the whole process," Mulunda told a press conference.
"They get their information in the street and then make an official report. It's unacceptable."
But the polls received another scathing review Monday from the National Episcopal Conference of the Congo, the country's Catholic bishops' council, which deployed some 30,000 observers nationwide, the largest monitoring group on voting day.
The Conference's observations "pose a serious question about the credibility of these elections, as the Carter Center report has just attested," the archbishop of Kinshasa, Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo, told journalists.
"The results... comply with neither truth nor justice," added the archbishop, a powerful public figure in the largely Catholic country.
Mulunda announced Friday that Kabila had defeated veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi 49 percent to 32 percent in the polls, just the second since back-to-back wars from 1996 to 2003.
Tshisekedi immediately rejected the outcome and declared himself the legitimately elected president.
Third-place candidate Vital Kamerhe, who won eight percent of the vote, appealed the result to the supreme court Monday, as did a woman who is asking for the election to be annulled, a court spokesman said.
Tshisekedi has refused to launch a challenge at the court, which is seen as close to Kabila. His spokesman hinted he could call mass protests.
"We're waiting for a sign from the international community. That doesn't prevent people from using their right to protest peacefully in the meantime," said spokesman Albert Moleka.
While schools were still closed in Kinshasa Monday, traffic in the capital had largely returned to normal after a forceful crackdown on protests following the result announcement Friday had reduced the usual bustle of the sprawling city of 10 million people to an eerie quiet.
At least four people died in the unrest.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe warned Sunday that the situation in the country was "explosive".
Human rights groups and residents of neighbourhoods where Tshisekedi enjoys strong support have accused security forces of raiding houses and randomly arresting young men, using excessive force against detainees and stealing money and cell phones from locals.
Kabila insisted the country was calm, and defended the actions of the security forces.
"You've definitely seen violence from the people who have tried to loot shops in town, you've definitely seen violence from the opposition. Have you seen violence from the security forces? I don't think so," he said.
"If we were to have violence from the security forces -- you'll agree with me -- that we could have had tens if not hundreds of deaths. It's not the case. The Congo is a democracy."
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