US Sends Troops to Gabon; Trump Warns Congo Against Post-Vote Protests
January 8, 2019
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Mathilde Boussion / Associated Press
Congo faces what could be its first democratic, peaceful transfer of power since independence from Belgium in 1960. The Catholic Church has threatened an uprising if untrue vote is announced. Anticipating post-election protests in this far-off land, Donald Trump has ordered US troops to neighboring Gabon and has taken it upon himself to warn the Congolese not to protest.
US Sends Troops to Gabon,
Warns Congo Against Post-Vote Protests
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(January 6, 2019) -- While the election in Congo was relatively quiet, the US is expecting that there will be protests when the results are announced. The anticipation is enough that President Trump has ordered to send troops to neighboring Gabon, and is warning the Congolese not to protest.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is reporting that the US sent about 80 troops and "appropriate combat equipment" to Gabon for the fight, President Trump has said more troops will deploy as needed to Gabon.
The election is between the ruling party's candidate Ramazani Shadary, and opposition candidate Martin Fayulu, who is backed by the Catholic Church. The Catholics appear to be anticipating a Fayulu win, and have warned of an "uprising" if an untrue result is released.
Shadary is backed by long-standing dictator Joseph Kabula's family, and has accused the Catholics of being "irresponsible and anarchist" in their attitude toward the election.
Though results were expected on Sunday, officials say only 53% of the polling stations have been counted. The church insisted on Thursday that the results are a clear win for their side. There is no longer any timeline for a result.
US Sends Troops for Possible 'Violent' Congo Vote Protests
Mathilde Boussion / Associated Press
KINSHASA, Congo -- On the eve of the first expected results of Congo's long-delayed presidential election, US President Donald Trump said military personnel had deployed to the region for possible "violent demonstrations," while the country's powerful Catholic church warned of a popular "uprising" if untrue results are announced.
Congo faces what could be its first democratic, peaceful transfer of power since independence from Belgium in 1960, but election observers and the opposition have raised numerous concerns about voting irregularities as the country chooses a successor to longtime President Joseph Kabila.
The first results are expected on Sunday, and the United States and the African Union, among others, have urged Congo to release results that reflect the true will of the people. The US has threatened sanctions against those who undermine the democratic process. Western election observers were not invited to watch the vote.
The Catholic church, an influential voice in the heavily Catholic nation, caused surprise on Thursday by announcing that data reported by its 40,000 election observers deployed in all polling stations show a clear winner. As regulations say only the electoral commission can announce election results, the church did not announce a name.
The electoral commission responded by saying the church's announcement could incite an "uprising."
Congo's ruling party, which backs Mr. Kabila's preferred candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, called the church's attitude "irresponsible and anarchist."
Leading opposition candidate Martin Fayulu, a businessman and lawmaker who has accused Congolese authorities of impeding his campaign, has not commented.
At stake is a vast country rich in the minerals that power the world's mobile phones and laptops, yet desperately underdeveloped. Some 40 million people were registered to vote, though at the last minute some 1 million voters were barred as the electoral commission cited a deadly Ebola virus outbreak. Critics said that undermines the election's credibility.
The Catholic church's letter, seen by The Associated Press, dismisses the electoral commission's accusation that it acted illegally by making its earlier statement, saying its goal is to "make the electoral process credible" and stabilize the country.
The Dec. 30 election took place more than two years behind schedule, while a court ruled that Mr. Kabila could stay in office until the vote was held. The delay led to sometimes deadly protests as authorities cracked down, and Shadary is now under European Union sanctions for his role in the crackdown as interior minister at the time.
Mr. Kabila, who took office in 2001 after his father was assassinated, is barred from serving three consecutive terms but has hinted that he could run again in 2023. That has led many Congolese to suspect that he will rule from the shadows if Mr. Shadary takes office.
With potential unrest a concern, internet and text messaging services were cut off the day after the election in an apparent attempt by Congolese authorities to calm speculation. The United States has urged that internet service be restored, and a United Nations human rights spokeswoman has warned that "these efforts to silence dissent could backfire considerably when the results are announced."
The outages have slowed the transmission of election data, and the release of the first results could be delayed.
While Congo has been largely calm on and after election day, Mr. Trump's letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said about 80 military personnel and "appropriate combat equipment" had deployed to nearby Gabon to support the security of US citizens and staffers and diplomatic facilities.
More military personnel will deploy as needed to Gabon, Congo or neighboring Republic of Congo, Mr. Trump's letter said.
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