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Congo opposition unifies behind No. 2 finisher as real ‘winner’
GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo — Formerly competing Congolese opposition parties have lined up behind Etienne Tshisekedi, the self-proclaimed winner of last week's presidential election that was marred by violence, disorder and charges of widespread fraud.
Meanwhile, France's foreign minister warned Sunday that Congo's disputed election is "explosive," as he urged action to prevent a resumption of mayhem in the Central African nation.
"The situation is explosive, I'm well aware. The temptation to resort to violence is extremely strong, so we are trying to do everything possible to avoid this," Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told French radio and television outlets in Paris, according to reports by Agence France-Presse.
On Friday, Congo's electoral board declared incumbent President Joseph Kabila the provisional victor, with nearly 49 percent of the vote. Mr. Tshisekedi came in second, with 32 percent of the ballots cast.
"The people keep crying out that we didn't vote for Kabila," said Felix Badila Siwambanza Kali, a 58-year-old father of eight who has been unemployed for 18 years. He said Congo is desperate for change.
International observers from the Carter Center said the vote lacked credibility, but the organization "does not propose that the final order of candidates is necessarily different than announced."
"Multiple locations, notably several Katanga province constituencies, reported impossibly high rates of 99 percent to 100 percent voter turnout with all, or nearly all, votes going to incumbent President Joseph Kabila," the center said in a statement released Saturday.
Shortly after Friday's announcement, Mr. Tshisekedi declared himself the newly elected president, saying he had received 54 percent of the vote to Mr. Kabila's 26 percent.
Former third-place candidate Vital Kamerhe publicly congratulated Mr. Tshisekedi, calling him the true winner.
Kamerhe supporters in North Kivu - a troubled eastern province in which he enjoys particular popularity - were quick to jump on board, followed by supporters of several smaller opposition parties.
Officials from Mr. Tshisekedi's party said they are planning peaceful protests to begin this week in conjunction with now-allied opposition parties.
Freddy Nguliko, the regional deputy secretary of Mr. Kamerhe's party, said his group had planned to contest the election in court.
But he said they now stand behind Mr. Tshisekedi, whose supporters took to the streets in the capital, Kinshasa, not long after the announcement was made.
"The Supreme Court is corrupt," Mr. Nguliko said in a campaign office in Goma. "They will favor the president and reject our claims."
Four people were killed in postelection violence, which included looting, burning tires, police round-ups of dissidents and shots fired in the air, according to Agence France-Presse. U.N.-supported Radio Okapi reported six deaths.
Human Rights Watch said at least 18 people were killed and 100 injured in violence leading up to the balloting.
With the simmering conflict in Congo at risk of erupting into an all-out war, international observers began urging the population to accept the results before they were tallied.
After the results were announced, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for challenges to the vote to be "resolved peacefully through available legal and mediation mechanisms."
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