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Opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi declared winner of Congo election

By Daniel Uria   |   Jan. 9, 2019 at 11:47 PM
Opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi was declared the winner of the Democratic Republic of Congo's presidential election Wednesday. Photo by Stefan Kleinowitz/EPA

Jan. 9 (UPI) -- The Democratic Republic of Congo's electoral commission on Wednesday declared opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi the winner of its presidential election.

Tshisekedi will take over the office from President Joseph Kabila, who has ruled the country since 2001, in what is considered the first peaceful transfer of power between parties in the country since it gained independence from Belgium.

The result is likely to be questioned, as accusations of tampering swirled after the electoral commission pushed back its deadline to release the results of the vote from the Dec. 30 election.

Wednesday's declaration contradicts an unofficial tally by the DRC's Roman Catholic Church, which had some 40,000 observers monitoring the vote and ballot count and showed Martin Fayulu, another opposition candidate, was the winner.

The commission's report said Tshisekedi received 39 percent of the vote, Fayulu had 35 and 24 percent went to Kabila's preferred successor Emmanuel Shadary.

After the result was announced, thousands took to the streets of Kinshasa in celebration. Suspicions of election tampering may, however, lead to protests and other clashes.

Internet and and messaging services were shut down the day after the election and the U.S. State Department advised all American citizens in the country to leave in anticipation of protest.