A week after crucial elections held to replace long-term president Joseph Kabila, the DRC was on edge on Sunday with no date for the announcement of delayed results and just over half of ballots counted.
On Saturday, hours before the scheduled announcement of the provisional outcome, electoral officials said there would be a delay until next week, without specifying a date.
Amid fears of tampering and rising calls from world powers for voters’ wishes to be respected, election commission head Corneille Nangaa said a little over half of the ballots had been counted since the December 30 polls.
“We ask the nation to remain patient for the time it will take to consolidate all our data,” he said on Sunday, claiming that “diplomats… are doing their utmost to threaten us,” without elaborating.
21 candidates ran in the election to succeed Kabila, who has ruled the country for close to 18 years.
Among the frontrunners were Kabila’s successor Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary and two opposition candidates: veteran heavyweight Felix Tshisekedi and newcomer Martin Fayulu.
Kabila was due to step down two years ago, but held on to power, sparking widespread protests which were brutally repressed, killing dozens.
The elections held last month, preceded by repeated delays, were relatively peaceful. However tensions have built over the lengthy counting process amid fears the results could be manipulated to install Kabila-backed Shadary in the presidency.
The electoral commission had taken up the responsibility of announcing preliminary results on Sunday, followed by a definitive count on January 15. The president was due to be sworn in three days later.
The delay could stoke tensions in country. Since the vote, the authorities have cut internet access and blocked broadcasts by Radio France Internationale, causing widespread frustration.
There has been growing concern over the transfer of power in sub-Saharan Africa’s largest nation from the international community. Western powers have upped the pressure; The United States and European Union urged Kinshasa to ensure a peaceful transfer of power.
On Friday, President Donald Trump announced that the United States was sending about 80 troops to Gabon to deploy in the event of election-related unrest in nearby DR Congo.
The African Union, which had an 80-member team monitoring the vote, insisted that respecting voters’ wishes was “crucial”.
And Denis Sassou Nguesso, president of the western neighbour Republic of Congo, urged restraint in uncertain times to “safeguard peace and stability in this brother country”.