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

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.


India reimposes movement curbs on parts of Kashmir’s main city after clashes

Updated 18 August 2019

India reimposes movement curbs on parts of Kashmir’s main city after clashes

  • There were violent overnight clashes between residents and police in which dozens were injured
  • India has been fighting a revolt in which at least 50,000 people have been killed

SRINAGAR: Indian authorities reimposed restrictions on movement in major parts of Kashmir’s biggest city, Srinagar, on Sunday after violent overnight clashes between residents and police in which dozens were injured, two senior officials and eyewitnesses said.
In the past 24 hours, there has been a series of protests against New Delhi’s Aug. 5 revocation of the region’s autonomy. This followed an easing in curbs on movement on Saturday morning.
The state government has said that it has not imposed a curfew over the past two weeks, but on Sunday people were being turned back at multiple roadblocks set up in the city in the past few hours. Security forces at some roadblocks have told residents there is a curfew.
Two senior government officials told Reuters that at least two dozen people were admitted to hospitals with pellet injuries after violent clashes broke out in the old city on Saturday night.
Representatives in the Jammu and Kashmir government in Srinagar and the federal government in New Delhi did not immediately return calls asking about the latest clampdown or seeking an assessment of the number of injuries and clashes.
One of the official sources said that people pelted security forces with stones in around two dozen places across Srinagar. He said that the intensity of the stone pelting protests has increased over past few days.
The heavy overnight clashes took place mostly in Rainawari, Nowhetta and Gojwara areas of the old city where Indian troops fired tear smoke, chilly grenades and pellets to disperse protesters, eyewitnesses and officials said.
Chilly grenades contain very spicy chili pepper, and produce a major eye and skin irritant, as well as a pungent smell, when they are unleashed.
The officials, who declined to be identified because they aren’t supposed to talk to the media, said clashes also took place in other parts of the city including Soura, a hotbed of protests in the past two weeks.
A senior government official and hospital authorities at Srinagar’s main hospital said that at least 17 people came there with pellet injuries. They said 12 were discharged while five with grievous injuries were admitted.
The hospital officials and a police officer told Reuters that a 65-year-old man, Mohammad Ayub of Braripora, was admitted to the hospital after he had major breathing difficulties when tear gas and chilly grenades were fired in old city area on Saturday afternoon. He died in the hospital on Saturday night and has already been buried, they said.
Javed Ahmad, age 35 and from the wealthy Rajbagh area of Srinagar, was prevented from going to the old city early Sunday morning by paramilitary police at a barricade near the city center. “I had to visit my parents there. Troops had blocked the road with concertina wire. They asked me to go back as there was curfew in the area,” he said.
Telephone landlines were restored in parts of the city on Saturday after a 12-day blackout and the state government said most telephone exchanges in the region would start working by Sunday evening. Internet and cell phones remain blocked in Kashmir.
More than 500 political or community leaders and activists remained in detention, and some have been flown to prisons outside the state.
For 30 years in the part of Kashmir that it controls, India has been fighting a revolt in which at least 50,000 people have been killed. Critics say the decision to revoke autonomy will cause further alienation and fuel the armed resistance.
The change will allow non-residents to buy property in Jammu and Kashmir, and end the practice of reserving state government jobs for local residents.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has said the measure is necessary to integrate Kashmir fully into India and speed up its development.