The African Union called Thursday for the final announcement of last month’s disputed presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo to be suspended due to “serious doubts”.
Meeting in Ethiopia, the AU agreed to urgently send “a high-level delegation” to Kinshasa in a bid to find a way out of the political crisis.
“The Heads of State and Government attending the meeting concluded that there were serious doubts on the conformity of the provisional results, as proclaimed by the National Independent Electoral Commission, with the votes cast,” the AU said in a statement.
As a result, it has “called for the suspension of the proclamation of the final results of the elections”.
The provisional results of the long-awaited election announced last week are being challenged in court, in a country that has never known a peaceful transfer of power since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960.
The electoral commission last Thursday declared opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi the winner of the December 30 vote with 38.57 percent of the tally against chief rival Martin Fayulu’s 34.8 percent.
Fayulu who launched the court action said it was an “electoral coup” forged in backroom dealings between Tshisekedi and outgoing President Joseph Kabila, who has been in power since 2001.
“Even if the situation on the ground has been fortunately calm so far, it obviously remains a cause for concern,” AU chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat told African leaders including from South Africa, Zambia and the Republic of Congo gathered to discuss the vote dispute at AU headquarters in Ethiopia.
Earlier this week, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a bloc that includes Angola and South Africa, called for a recount of the vote and a unity government in DR Congo.
But in a communique issued on Thursday, SADC 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”.
It also asked the international community to respect the DR Congo’s “sovereignty” and “territorial integrity”.
The vote dispute has raised fears that the country’s political crisis, which erupted two years ago when Kabila refused to step down at the end of his constitutional term in office, could worsen.
The vast and chronically unstable country became a battlefield for two regional wars in 1996-97 and 1998-2003, and the last two presidential elections, in 2006 and 2011, were marked by bloody clashes.
The country’s top court is due to rule on the court action later this month.