By Linda Bordoni
Clouds of distrust and decades of injustice threaten to unleash yet another socio-political storm in the Democratic Republic of Congo where the Independent National Electoral Commission continues to drag its heals.
Electoral officials blame problems collecting the data for having postponed the announcement of results while tensions continue to increase in the country where past elections have been marred by deadly violence.
One top official promised the long awaited results should be counted within 24 hours.
The elections, postponed three times over the last two years, were to choose a successor to long-term President Joseph Kabila.
While the announcement of provisional results, which were due last Sunday, have been pushed back - to officially allow the Electoral Commission to make final deliberations - many citizens say they are convinced the opposition won and that the delay in announcing results is allowing manipulation in favor of the ruling party.
Since the vote, the government has cut internet service in the vast Central African country to prevent speculation on social media, it says, about who won and it has blocked some radio stations. But it cannot stop lively debate on the ground and riot police have been deployed in the capital Kinshasa as it braces for possible violence.
The poll was meant to lead to country's first democratic transfer of power in its 59 years of independence, but a disputed result could trigger the kind of violence that erupted after the 2006 and 2011 elections and destabilize the volatile regions on the DRC’s eastern border.
DRC Catholic Bishops
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has also voiced its concern about voting irregularities.
DRC bishops continue to be key players vying for peace and justice in the historically exploited nation that is rich in resources but wracked by inequality, poverty and violence.
They were crucial in mediating an agreement between the country’s ruling political coalition and opposition leaders in 2016 that culminated in a pact that allowed Kabila to remain in office beyond his mandate provided he step down after the December 30th vote.
Pope Francis meanwhile this week said he was following the developing situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo with special concern.
Speaking to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See on Monday he urged respect for the result of the election and expressed his hope that the country would regain the reconciliation it has long awaited to be able to undertake a decisive journey towards development.