KINSHASA, Congo — On the eve of the first expected results of Congo’s presidential election, President Donald Trump said military personnel had deployed to Central Africa to protect U.S. assets from possible “violent demonstrations.”Congo faces what could be its first democratic, peaceful transfer of power since independence from Belgium in 1960, but election observers and the opposition have raised concerns about voting irregularities as the country chooses a successor to longtime President Joseph Kabila.
The first results are expected on Sunday, and the U.S. and the African Union, among others, have urged Congo to release results that reflect the true will of the people. The U.S. has threatened sanctions against those who undermine the democratic process. Western election observers were not invited to watch the vote.
While Congo has been largely calm since the Dec. 30 vote, Trump’s letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said 80 military personnel and “appropriate combat equipment” had deployed to nearby Gabon to support the security of U.S. citizens, staffers and diplomatic facilities. The U.S. ahead of the vote ordered “nonemergency” government employees and family to leave the country.
The Catholic Church, an influential voice in the heavily Catholic nation, caused surprise on Thursday by announcing that data reported by its 40,000 election observers deployed in all polling stations show a clear winner. As regulations say only the electoral commission can announce election results, the church did not give a name.
The electoral commission on Friday said the church’s announcement could incite an uprising. The church replied that releasing untrue results could cause the uprising instead.
Congo’s ruling party, which backs Kabila’s preferred candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, called the church’s attitude “irresponsible and anarchist.”