The runner-up in Democratic Republic of Congo’s presidential election says he in fact won the vote by a significant margin, as rising violence across the country fuelled fears of a wider law and order breakdown.
Martin Fayulu’s campaign team claimed it had evidence its candidate had scored more than 60% of the votes in the much-delayed election on 30 December, 42 points more than Felix Tshisekedi, who was declared the winner by the electoral commission early on Thursday.
Fayulu’s figures are understood to be close to those compiled by the Catholic church, which deployed 40,000 observers on the day of the election.
The church has refused to say publicly who won according to its findings, but diplomats briefed on the church data say it indicated a clear victory for Fayulu, in line with pre-election polls that had put him at least 20 points ahead of Tshisekedi.
The Fayulu camp figures are also very similar to those cited in 100s of pages of documents leaked by a whistleblower and passed to the Guardian overnight on Thursday. The documents, which the Guardian has been unable to verify independently, are purported to be the electoral commission’s authentic count.
An electoral commission spokesperson denied that there was any difference between the officially published results – which gave Tshisekedi 38%, four points ahead of Fayulu – and any other figures compiled by the body. Experts said the results in the leaked documents were “plausible in parts” but expressed scepticism about the claimed margin of Fayulu’s apparent win and the turnout figures cited.
At least nine people have been killed and many more injured since the announcement of the result on Thursday. At least five police stations have been attacked and scores of protesters arrested in a series of clashes with security agencies. A prison breakout and a massacre by a militia have further intensified security concerns across the vast, strategically crucial central African state.
Most of the demonstrations have involved supporters of Fayulu, who immediately rejected the official results on Thursday, accusing Tshishekedi of doing a deal with outgoing president Joseph Kabila and calling for a campaign to resist what he called “an electoral coup”.
Fayulu’s claim of substantial victory will fuel a febrile atmosphere that threatens to tip DRC into a cycle of protest, violent repression and worsening insecurity – dashing hopes that the election would mark a turning point in the DRC’s troubled history.
Polls in 2006 and 2011 – both won by Kabila – saw significant bloodshed.
On Thursday evening and Friday, thousands of police and soldiers from the regular army as well as the feared republican guard, an elite unit loyal to Kabila, were deployed in towns and cities across the country.
In Kikwit, the capital of Kwilu, four civilians were reported dead and two police officers badly beaten after soldiers cleared unidentified youths who had erected barricades with live firing on Thursday evening. Aid workers described the situation on Friday as “very tense” after shots were also heard in several locations. Several arrests were made by police, including a journalist who was later released.
There are also reports of a prison breakout in the town, during which 90 convicts escaped and five were shot dead. Much of the prison was reportedly destroyed.
In Mbandaka, a port town on the Congo river in the centre of the country, there were protests on Friday morning following the overnight deaths of two civilians, one a woman allegedly killed by a soldier. Soldiers were reported to have fired into the air to clear the crowds and a senior local leader of Fayulu’s coalition was arrested after calling for protests on a radio station.
In the major town of Kinsangani, police and soldiers stormed the campus of the university and makeshift road blocks in the Makiso neighbourhood to control a “massive and violent situation” with “sporadic shooting”, according to aid workers. The local offices of the main ruling party were burned and a drinking club belonging to the town governor looted. There were reports that armoured vehicles had been seen on the streets.
Reinforcing fears of a more general breakdown of security, the bodies of seven civilians were discovered on Thursday morning in North Kivu, a restive eastern province. The find brings the death toll from a suspected militia attack earlier this week to 18, one of the most deadly for months, diplomatic sources told the Guardian.
Tshisekdi’s apparent victory surprised some observers who believed authorities would ensure victory for the government candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, who was handpicked by Kabila as his successor.
Fayulu, a former business executive, has now said he will approach the constitutional court but does not expect to win.
Kabila, 47, has ruled since the 2001 assassination of his father, Laurent Kabila, who overthrew the long-serving dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997. He leads a country that suffers from widespread corruption, continuing conflict, endemic disease, and some of the world’s highest levels of sexual violence and malnutrition.