The Constitutional Court of the Democratic Republic of Congo ruled early Sunday on the results of the country’s highly contested election, determining that the opposition candidate Félix Tshisekedi was in fact the winner and rejecting a challenge from another opposition figure who was the runner-up.
The court’s decision affirmed the results announced by the country’s electoral commission, which appointed Mr. Tshisekedi as the president-elect. He is set to be inaugurated on Tuesday.
Martin Fayulu, the runner-up, was contesting the results and demanding a manual recount. The judges of the constitutional court said they had determined that the request for a recount was “absurd” and that Mr. Fayulu had not provided any proof of fraud.
Mr. Fayulu said early Sunday that the court has “falsified and countered the truth of the polls to serve an unjust cause and perpetuate a regime that our people hate.”
“I now consider myself the only legitimate president,” he added.
Congo went to the polls in December in what was intended to be the country’s first democratic handover of power in the 59 years since it gained independence from Belgium. For the past 21 years, the country has been led by the Kabila family, first by Laurent-Désiré Kabila and then by his son Joseph Kabila.
But challenges were filed to the court, including by Mr. Fayulu, who said the result was announced only after Mr. Tshisekedi and Joseph Kabila, the outgoing president, came to a power-sharing agreement. The two have denied any such deal.
Fears of violent protest and a crackdown by the government have gripped the nation since the election. The government went as far as cutting internet and text messaging services in an attempt to maintain order in the weeks after the polls. Service was restored on Saturday night.
On Saturday, hundreds of supporters of Mr. Tshisekedi gathered in the capital, Kinshasa, to protest the challenge to his win. During a Friday news conference, Mr. Fayulu urged calm ahead of the results.
“I urge you not to give in to provocation, to avoid anything that can divide us or break national cohesion, including tribal or ethnic hatred,” he said, according to Radio Okapi, a local news outlet.
Some outside observers also considered the real winner to be Mr. Fayulu based on voting data compiled by the Roman Catholic Church, a powerful force in the country that sent tens of thousands of observers to polling stations. The church said the government’s declaration of Mr. Tshisekedi as the winner did not match up with its data.
The African Union on Thursday, after a meeting in the capital of Ethiopia, called for a delay in the court’s announcement of the results, saying “there were serious doubts on the conformity of the provisional results” in Congo.
However, the Congolese government rejected those recommendations and vowed to go ahead with the process, saying the African Union had no say over the ruling of the country’s court.
The African Union plans to send a delegation to Congo — including Paul Kagame, head of the African Union and president of Rwanda — to find a way out of the post-electoral crisis.
The United Nations also urged a peaceful resolution.
“We now hope that the electoral process in the Democratic Republic of Congo will be concluded without violence and in full respect of the will of the Congolese people and the legal and constitutional rules of the country,” António Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations, said during a Friday news conference.
The entire election process was troubled from the outset. A planned vote was delayed for more than two years, with the election commission most recently blaming violence, technical problems and an Ebola epidemic.
Mr. Kabila’s government finally yielded to pressure from the international community and the Catholic Church to hold the election. He has been in power for 18 years.
Orignially published in NYT.