US deploys troops to neighbouring Gabon as DRC election tensions continue

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JOHANNESBURG, January 7 – The United States has deployed extra military personnel to Gabon as tension remains in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) over delayed vote counting following last week’s presidential election.

US President Donald Trump informed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that about 80 military personnel and “appropriate combat equipment” had been deployed to neighbouring Gabon to support the security of US citizens and staffers and diplomatic facilities, the Military Times reported on Sunday.

Trump said more troops would be deployed as needed to Gabon, DRC and the neighbouring Republic of Congo. Prior to the DRC’s long-awaited elections, the US ordered “non-emergency” government employees and family members to leave the country.

Washington also warned the possibility of sanctions was real, should the DRC’s nascent democracy be undermined by any of the main actors.

Preliminary election results were expected to be announced on Sunday, exactly a week after the vote. However, only 44 percent of results had been counted by Friday night.

Electoral commission authorities claimed the snail-pace vote counting was due to the requirement that only manually counted ballots could be used.

This explanation has failed to impress leading opposition candidate and businessman Martin Fayulu, who said the delaying tactic was deliberate and an attempt to impede his campaign.

Other critics say it could also be a ploy for incumbent President Joseph Kabila to remain in power.

Kabila had previously repeatedly refused to step down after 16-years in power and despite his presidential mandate ending in 2016 after two terms in office. He took power following the assassination of his father Laurent Kabila in 2001.

One of Kinshasa’s harshest critics has been the Catholic Church which claims that there is already a clear victor based on the observations of its 40,000 electoral observers deployed at polling stations around the country.

Kabila’s preferred candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary responded by labelling the church’s attitude “irresponsible and anarchist.”

Meanwhile, the African Union has joined the chorus of voices urging the DRC to release the results forthwith.

– African News Agency (ANA)