U.S. sends troops for possible ‘violent’ Congo vote protests

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Envelopes containing presidential ballots wait to be counted by Congolese independent electoral commission (CENI) officials at a local results compilation centre in Kinshasa, Congo, Friday Jan. 4, 2019.

The December 30 vote saw 21 candidates run to replace President Joseph Kabila, who has ruled the vast, conflict-ridden country for nearly 18 years.

The electoral commission responded by saying the church's announcement could incite an "uprising".

"Respect of the election results is crucial", Faki said in a brief message posted on Twitter.

"Rigged or fake vote tallies would only inflame an already tense situation and could have disastrous repercussions".

Congo's ruling party, which backs candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, called the church's attitude "irresponsible and anarchist". "We are making progress, but we do not have everything yet", Corneille Nangaa said. It was called Zaire under Mobutu Sese Seko, the US-backed strongman who ruled between 1960 and 1997, when he was ousted by rebels led by the current president's father Laurent Desire-Kabila.

The DRC is anxiously awaiting the outcome of the election, with provisional results originally expected on 6 January.

In response to protests following the elections, the Congolese government shut down internet services on Sunday.

The United States urged Congo to release accurate results and restore internet access, warning that those who undermine the democratic process could face USA sanctions.

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"The plan was to organise the elections and independent of who people voted for and proclaim Shadary as the victor", said Berwouts, author of Congo's Violent Peace: Conflict and Struggle since the Great African War.

The electoral commission is slated to release provision results on Sunday, but there may be a delay because of slow vote counting.

More than one million Congolese in opposition strongholds were barred from voting after the electoral commission cancelled the polls there, citing an Ebola outbreak, the second-deadliest in history, and ethnic violence.

Anxious that disputes and delays could spark the kind of violence seen after the 2006 and 2011 elections, the United Nations Security Council met on Friday to discuss how to react, but was unable to reach an agreement, according to an internal report seen by Reuters.

"Those who undermine the democratic process, threaten the peace, security or stability of the DRC, or benefit from corruption may find themselves not welcome in the United States and cut off from the USA financial system", the State Department said.

Questions still hang over the historic election that could see the first smooth transfer of power in 59 years of the country's independence. The eastern region is an opposition centre and critics said the disenfranchisement of voters there undermines the election's credibility.

CENCO secretary-general Donatien Nshole had said on Thursday that church tallies showed a clear victor in the election, which was widely interpreted as a warning against manipulating the results.

Congo's government says the election was fair and went smoothly.

Felix Tshisekedi Tshilombo, the son of a late veteran opposition leader who has promised to make the fight against poverty his priority.