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UN Security Council delays Congo session amid vote counting

By The News · 08 of January 2019 01:20:50
Congolese supporters of opposition Presidential candidate Felix Tshisekedi stand outside the UDPS party headquarters in Kinshasa, Congo, Monday Jan. 7, 2019. The Congolese Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) has not given a date for the publication of preliminary results. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay), No available, Congolese supporters of opposition Presidential candidate Felix Tshisekedi stand outside the UDPS party headquarters in Kinshasa, Congo, Monday Jan. 7, 2019. The Congolese Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) has not given a date for the publication of preliminary results. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council has put off a planned session on Congo and its closely watched presidential election as the country continues waiting for delayed results.

A council discussion initially set for Tuesday was postponed to Friday after Congolese officials indefinitely postponed the release of the first results. They had been due Sunday.

The council has been keenly following the long-awaited election in a country where the U.N. operates one of its biggest peacekeeping missions.

But there have been differences in the council over sending a collective message about the Dec. 30 election, diplomats said. A closed-door discussion last week spanned two hours but yielded no joint statement.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday the U.N. is looking forward to “the timely publication” of provisional results. Spokesman Stephane Dujarric also reminded everyone with a stake in the outcome to respect Congo’s electoral laws and “help maintain an environment free of violence.”

The vote could herald Congo’s first democratic, peaceful transition of power since its 1960 independence from Belgium, and the vast, mineral-rich Central African nation is awaiting the results in a tense atmosphere.

Longtime President Joseph Kabila had already postponed the election for two years, and some Congolese worry it could be manipulated to keep his party in power — suspicions fanned by the delay in announcing a winner.

With a little over half the vote compiled, officials said Sunday that no information would be released until all ballots were tallied. Officials gave no date for when that might be. Meanwhile, the government has cut off internet access to prevent any social-media speculation about who won.

In the Security Council’s private meeting Friday, France — which had called for the session — wanted the group to make a statement about the importance of the election and results, according to two council diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity to talk about the private discussion.

Other countries, including South Africa, thought the council shouldn’t weigh in until results were known, the diplomats said Monday.

South African Ambassador Jerry Matjila, whose country just joined the council as a voice from Africa, had publicly appealed for patience on his way into the session: “Let’s wait for the count,” he told reporters.

While the council didn’t speak as a whole, French Ambassador Francois Delattre said Friday that the meeting underscored the group’s close attention to Congo’s electoral process.