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US sends troops for possible 'violent' Congo vote protests

US sends troops for possible 'violent' Congo vote protests

A man examines voting materials at Congo's Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) tallying centre in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Jan. 1, 2019.

Observers have reported multiple irregularities as the vast, mineral-rich Central African country voted for a successor to departing President Joseph Kabila. In a letter to the commission on Saturday, seen by The Associated Press, the Catholic church dismissed the accusation that it acted illegally, saying its goal was to "make the electoral process credible" and stabilize the country.

It called on the election panel "to publish the election results in keeping with truth and justice", he said.

However, since voting began on December 30, election observers and the opposition have raise concerns about irregularities.

The presidential contest is a three-man contest between Kabila's protégé, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, and the two main opposition candidates, Mr Fayulu and Mr Tshisekedi.

The head of the commission Corneille Nangaa said on Saturday that less than half of the votes had been counted and as such it was not possible to declare any victor.

Western observers were not invited to watch the balloting, and the US has threatened sanctions against those who undermine the democratic process.

Democratic Republic of Congo's Catholic bishops conference (CENCO) said on Thursday that results from Sunday's presidential election in its possession show that one candidate has clearly won, but did not say which one.

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France requested the meeting, which was scheduled for 15:00, as world powers await results from the landmark vote held last Sunday.

A negative or cautionary worldwide reaction could be problematic for Kabila whose government has defended the election's organisation, and could weaken the legitimacy of Kabila's hand-picked successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, should he be declared victor. The United States also condemned a lack of transparency, while China, a major investor in DR Congo, lauded the process.

Also Friday, Congo's election commission scolded the Catholic church for saying its data show a clear victor in Sunday's presidential election, asserting that the announcement could incite an "uprising".

The US State Department spokesman, Robert Palladino, said in a statement: "There are moments in every nation's history when individuals and political leaders step forward and do the right thing. It is important that SADC respects the position of the Congolese people in these elections", he said.

While Congo was largely calm during and after the voting, President Donald Trump said about 80 military personnel and combat equipment had been deployed to neighbouring Gabon to protect American citizens and diplomatic facilities in Congo. Electoral authorities have indicated a delay might be needed.

Leading opposition candidate Martin Fayulu, a businessman and lawmaker who has accused Congolese authorities of impeding his campaign, has not commented.

The United States was deeply concerned by the DRC's National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) decision to deny accreditation to several worldwide election observers and media representatives, it said.