African Union urges Congo to suspend final election results

President of Chad Idriss Deby talks to Republic of the Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso during the High Level Consultation Meetings of Heads of State and Government on the Democratic Republic of Congo election at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on January 17, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
Updated 18 January 2019
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African Union urges Congo to suspend final election results

KINSHASA, Congo: The African Union continental body issued a surprise last-minute demand late Thursday for Congo’s government to suspend the announcement of final results of the disputed presidential election, citing “serious doubts.”
Congo’s constitutional court is poised to rule as early as Friday on a challenge filed by the election’s declared runner-up. Martin Fayulu has requested a recount, alleging fraud. Upholding the results could spark violence in a country hoping for its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since independence in 1960.
The AU statement said heads of state and government agreed to “urgently dispatch” a high-level delegation to Congo to find “a way out of the post-electoral crisis” in the vast Central African nation rich in the minerals key to smartphones and electric cars around the world.
“This is truly incredible,” tweeted Jason Stearns, director of the Congo Research Group at New York University. “Usually, the African Union defers to the subregion ... in this case they departed dramatically.”
Congo faces the extraordinary situation of an election allegedly rigged in favor of the opposition. There was no immediate government comment.
Fayulu accuses the administration of outgoing President Joseph Kabila of falsifying the results to declare opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi the winner after the ruling party candidate did poorly. Fayulu has cited figures compiled by the influential Catholic Church’s 40,000 election observers that found he won 61 percent of the vote.
Two sets of leaked data show that Fayulu won the election by a landslide, according to an investigation published this week by Radio France International and other media working with the Congo Research Group.
In the first set of data, attributed to Congo’s electoral commission and representing 86 percent of the votes, Fayulu won 59.4 percent while Tshisekedi received 19 percent. The second set of data, from the Catholic Church’s mission, represents 43 percent of the votes. In it, Tshisekedi and ruling party candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary each received less than 20 percent.
Fayulu, a lawmaker and businessman who is outspoken about cleaning up Congo’s sprawling corruption, is widely seen as posing more of a threat to Kabila, his allies and the vast wealth they have amassed. Tshisekedi, the son of charismatic opposition leader Etienne who died in 2017, is relatively untested and has said little since the Dec. 30 election.
The AU statement was issued after Congo’s foreign minister and deputy prime minister briefed “a number of heads of state and government” from across the continent on the crisis. It said some of the heads of state would join the AU Commission chair, Moussa Faki Mahamat, in the urgent mission to Congo.
Pressure from African nations is seen as having more of an impact on Congo’s government, which was annoyed by Western pressure during more than two years of turbulent election delays.
The AU statement reflects serious concern by states about the threat of more unrest in Congo that could spill across borders and destabilize its many neighbors.
But countries have wavered on how to address the crisis. The AU statement came hours after the 16-nation Southern African Development Community backed off its earlier demand for an election recount, instead urging the international community to respect Congo’s sovereignty. It stressed the need for stability in a country where conflicts over the past two decades have killed millions of people.
The AU statement noted that SADC leaders attended the wider continental talks.
Congo’s election had been meant to take place in late 2016, and many Congolese worried that Kabila, in power since 2001, was seeking a way to stay in office. Barred from serving three consecutive terms, Kabila already has hinted he might run again in 2023.
Election observers reported multiple problems, including the last-minute barring of some 1 million voters in the east, with the electoral commission blaming a deadly Ebola outbreak. That alone undermines the election’s credibility, some observers said.
All of the election results, not just the presidential ones, have been widely questioned after Kabila’s ruling coalition won a majority in legislative and provincial votes while its presidential candidate finished a distant third.


More than 60 dead in South Africa flooding after heavy rains

Updated 24 April 2019
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More than 60 dead in South Africa flooding after heavy rains

  • Rescue workers were digging through collapsed buildings on Wednesday
  • The rains mainly hit areas around the port city of Durban

DURBAN: At least 60 people have been killed and more than 1,000 have fled their homes after heavy rains caused flooding and mudslides along South Africa’s eastern coast, authorities said on Wednesday.
Most of the deaths were in KwaZulu-Natal province. Flooding also killed at least three people in neighboring Eastern Cape province, state broadcaster SABC said.
The rains mainly hit areas around the port city of Durban. Multiple dwellings collapsed in mudslides, said Robert McKenzie, a KwaZulu-Natal Emergency Medical Services spokesman.
Rescue workers were digging through collapsed buildings on Wednesday.
Victor da Silva, a resident of the coastal town of Amanzimtoti, said his family managed to evacuate before the floods destroyed their home and cars.
“On Monday, the water was just crazy. And yesterday morning I got here, everything was fine, my garage was still here, the other part of the house was still here, and it just couldn’t stop raining,” Da Silva said. “And then an hour and a half later, everything poof (vanished) because the rain just hasn’t stopped.
Authorities in southern Tanzania ordered evacuations of residents from low-lying areas and the closure of schools and offices ahead of landfall of Tropical Cyclone Kenneth on neighboring Mozambique’s coast on Thursday.
“We’ve decided to evacuate all residents of valleys and other low-lying areas and we advise them to seek refuge at public spaces,” Mtwara regional commissioner Gelasius Byakanwa, told reporters.
Johan Fourie said he fled his home in Amanzimtoti, Kwazulu-Natal, just before part of it collapsed.
“I nearly lost my life, and my neighbor, I believe, is in hospital,” Fourie told eNCA television.
The region had been hit by heavy rains for days, but authorities did not foresee the extent of the downpour late on Monday, said Lennox Mabaso, a spokesman for the provincial Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs department.
“As a result, there was flooding and some structures were undermined and collapsed on people,” Mabaso said.
Some people were swept away by the water, he added.
President Cyril Ramaphosa visited affected communities in KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday and was expected in the Eastern Cape in the next few days.
“This is partly what climate change is about, that it just hits when we least expect it,” he said.
Last week, 13 people were killed during an Easter service in KwaZulu-Natal when a church wall collapsed after days of heavy rains and strong winds.