- - Tuesday, December 6, 2011

GOMA, Congo — Amid cries of fraud and threats of massive protests that could turn violent, Congolese President Joseph Kabila appears to have secured another five-year term.

With 46 percent of the vote and more than two-thirds of polling stations reporting, Mr. Kabila is easily the front-runner, trailed by opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, with 36 percent of the vote.

“What the current president is doing is a kind of coup d’etat,” Wemba Katina, regional head of Mr. Tshisekedi’s party, Union for Democracy and Social Progress, said in a campaign office in the eastern province of North Kivu. “Even children here know the ballot boxes were stuffed.”

Mr. Katina called the election fraudulent and said his party was not waiting for results, but for instructions from their leader. Supporters, he said, are prepared for large-scale demonstrations.

While he stopped short of calling for violence, he said party members are ready to fight if government forces attack them.

Despite the rising tension, ruling party officials say the elections were democratic and transparent.

“International observers witnessed fair elections,” said Cyrille Muhongya, who leads the ruling party’s local campaign in the North Kivu capital, Goma. “If violence breaks out, it will not be coming from outside.”

Election officials scrambled to publish results, originally scheduled before midnight Tuesday, the end of Mr. Kabila’s presidential mandate.

Critics said the results are unverifiable and disorganized. Matthieu Ruchogoza, the electoral commission head in Goma, denied those claims, saying the process would produce an accurate reflection of the will of the Congolese people.

“We are confident that what is being published is correct,” he said. “There should not be problems.”

On local radio, opposition officials urged the government to send truckloads of soldiers back to their barracks rather than leaving them on the streets to “frighten the population.”

Goma police said the added deployments were keeping them too busy to comment.

Human Rights Watch said at least 18 people were killed - mostly by government gunfire - and 100 were injured in the mayhem leading up to the Nov. 28 vote.

Schools and many businesses were closed Tuesday in the capital, Kinshasa, and text-messaging service has been cut nationwide since the weekend.

In recent days, thousands of people have fled Congo for its smaller neighbor, the Republic of Congo, more commonly known as Congo-Brazzaville. Observers say urban unrest could break out if Mr. Kabila wins, and any other victor could spark violence in the countryside.

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