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Catholic Church embroiled in DR Congo election row

Catholic Church embroiled in DR Congo election row
By Mark Armstrong with Reuters
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The Election Commission in the DR of Congo has accused the Catholic Church of preparing people for insurrection


The Democratic Republic of Congo's electoral commission has accused the country's Catholic Church of "preparing an insurrection" by claiming it knows the winner of last week's presidential election ahead of the results. The claim has also been denounced by the ruling coalition party of President Joseph Kabila. The UN is calling for calm on all sides.

"Intimidation and harassment against journalists, opposition candidates and human rights defenders continue to take place," Ravina Shamdasani of the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters. "This being a very sensitive, as I said, a very tense period, we are concerned that these efforts to silence dissent could backfire considerably when the results are announced."

The European Union also called on election authorities to ensure the results reflect the will of the Congolese people.

On Thursday the Catholic Church said its vote tallies showed a clear victor in the election, a pronouncement widely seen as a warning to authorities against rigging the vote.

The Catholic Church is one of Congo's most powerful institutions, representing about 40 percent of its 80 million people.

The ruling coalition, which is backing President Kabila's hand-picked successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, also took aim at the bishops on Thursday.

The coalition "deplores ... the partisan, irresponsible and anarchic attitude of CENCO (The Catholic Church organisation in Congo)," said Barnabe Kikaya Bin Karubi, an adviser to Kabila and spokesman for Shadary.

Provisional results were due on Sunday.

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