DR Congo court to rule on disputed poll, snubbing African Union
The Constitutional Court is urgently hearing an appeal over the outcome of the disputed 30 December vote to choose a successor to long-serving President Joseph Kabila.
KINSHASA - DR Congo's top court on Saturday said it was poised to give its verdict on final presidential election results which have been challenged at home and abroad, spurning an appeal from the African Union to suspend the announcement.
The Constitutional Court is urgently hearing an appeal over the outcome of the disputed 30 December vote to choose a successor to long-serving President Joseph Kabila, with runner-up Martin Fayulu claiming he was cheated of victory, an assertion supported by other organisations.
Constitutional Court spokesman Baudouin Mwehu earlier told AFP that a hearing on the results would take place at 3:00 pm local time (1400 GMT). But the session still had not begun by early evening, with lawyers, journalists and observers waiting in uncertainty over the possible verdict announcement.
Hundreds of supporters of opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi, the declared winner of the election, had gathered outside the court holding placards saying "No to interference" and "Independent country" as riot police stood nearby.
On 10 January, the electoral commission said Tshisekedi had provisionally won with 38.57 percent of the vote against Fayulu's 34.8%.
But Fayulu denounced the figures as an "electoral coup" forged by Tshisekedi and Kabila, and filed an appeal with the Constitutional Court.
'NOT THEIR BUSINESS'
At a summit on Thursday, AU leaders said there were "serious doubts" about the vote's provisional results and called for the announcement of the final results to be suspended.
But DR Congo government spokesman Lambert Mende had snubbed the AU demand saying: "I don't think it is the business of the government or even of the African Union to tell the court what it should do."
The AU also announced that its commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat and Rwanda's President Paul Kagame, currently the AU chairman, were expected to fly to DR Congo on Monday.
The European Union said it joined the AU in inviting "all the Congolese players to work constructively with this (AU) delegation to find a post-electoral solution which respects the Congolese people's vote".
The court is due to give a ruling ahead of the scheduled swearing-in of the next president on Tuesday.
The Financial Times and other foreign media have reported seeing documents that confirm Fayulu as the winner.
"If the court declares Tshisekedi victor, the risk of isolation would be enormous and untenable for a country positioned right in the middle of the continent," Adeline Van Houtte of the Economist Intelligence Unit wrote on Twitter.
Fayulu's camp had hailed the AU appeal for the final result to be put on hold, but Tshisekedi's entourage branded it "scandalous."
The dispute has raised fears that the political crisis that began when Kabila refused to step down at the end of his constitutional term in office two years ago, could turn into a bloodbath.
The US ambassador to Kinshasa Mike Hammer on Saturday protested against an internet shutdown tweeting: "20 days without internet are 20 days too many. It needs to be restored now. Democracies thrive and societies prosper when people are informed and can communicate freely."
The vast and chronically unstable country lived through two regional wars in 1996-97 and 1998-2003, and the previous two elections, in 2006 and 2011, were marred by bloody clashes.
The AU has taken the firmest line of all major international bodies with regard to the post-election crisis.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC), a bloc that includes Angola and South Africa, initially called for a recount and a unity government.
But in a later communique, it made no mention of those demands, instead calling on Congolese politicians to "address any electoral grievances in line with the Democratic Republic of Congo's Constitution and relevant electoral laws".