Congo opposition plans Wednesday election protest despite ban

By Ange Kasongo and Sonia Rolley

KINSHASA (Reuters) -Opposition candidates in Democratic Republic of Congo’s chaotic presidential election plan to march in the capital on Wednesday, despite authorities banning the protest and early results showing the incumbent with a large lead.

Martin Fayulu, one of the main challengers to President Felix Tshisekedi in the Dec. 20 election, said in an interview that the opposition candidates who had called the joint demonstration over alleged election irregularities would proceed with the march because they were convinced the vote was a fraud.

“We are going to protest because we can’t accept another electoral coup d’etat,” Fayulu told Reuters by telephone.

He was speaking hours after Vice Prime Minister Peter Kazadi said the march had no legal basis and was aimed at undermining the work of the election commission which was still compiling results.

“No government in the world can accept this, so we will not let it happen,” Kazadi told a news conference, adding that the opposition should wait for the full results rather than protest.

Election disputes often fuel unrest in Congo and risk further destabilising Africa’s second-largest country, a major cobalt and copper producer plagued by widespread poverty and insecurity in its eastern region.

After a violent campaign, the vote itself was messy, with delayed election kit deliveries, malfunctioning equipment and disorganised voting registers.

The protest organisers have heavily criticised the decision of the election commission known as CENI to extend voting at polling stations that failed to open on election day, calling it unconstitutional and demanding a full re-run of the election.

Some independent observers also said the extension compromised the credibility of the vote.

CENI has acknowledged there were delays on Dec. 20 but has denied that the credibility of the election was compromised by extending some voting.

It started releasing results over the weekend, and its latest tally on Tuesday put Tshisekedi ahead of his 18 challengers, with almost 79% of around 6.1 million votes counted so far.

Businessman Moise Katumbi and former energy executive Martin Fayulu were second and third respectively with about 14% and more than 4% of the vote.

The commission has not disclosed how many of the approximately 44 million registered voters cast ballots, nor given any indication of what the latest given figure represents in relation to the total number of votes.

(Reporting by Ange Kasongo and Sonia Rolley; Editing by Daniel Wallis Writing by Sofia Christensen and Anait MiridzhanianEditing by Alexander Winning)