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Diplomats Agree Kabila Won Congo’s Poll, Says Official

A supporter of Congolese opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi is grabbed by a Congolese riot police officer outside his candidate's headquarters in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, December 8, 2011

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Information Minister Lambert Mende says diplomats agree that incumbent Joseph Kabila won the disputed election. They announced their opinion late Wednesday.

Mende says they expressed concern about how the Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) administered the November 28 presidential and legislative elections. His comments came after government officials met with foreign diplomats to review last month’s elections.

“We did acknowledge the remarks from observers that showed that there was a lot of dysfunction in the way the electoral commission is working, and we tried to scrutinize the reasons,” said Mende. “This was mainly because of the lack of experience of these young electoral [officials]. And it was due to the violence that spread out all over the country following some actions from the opposition.”

Main opposition challenger Etienne Tshisekedi rejected the results and declared himself president, citing fraud and voter irregularities. Other opposition groups echoed similar concerns and have instituted a legal challenge at the Supreme Court.

Some poll observers, including the European Union and the U.S.-based Carter Center, say the election was flawed. The Carter Center said the vote was marred by wide variations in the quality of vote counting.

In a statement released late Saturday, the center said there was evidence that results from nearly 2,000 polling stations in the capital, Kinshasa, were lost. It said multiple locations around the country reported 99 to 100 percent voter turnout, with most or all of the votes going to the incumbent president.

But Information Minister Mende says there was a collective agreement among diplomats that Mr. Kabila won the presidential election, despite voter irregularities and alleged fraud during the poll.

“They [diplomats] said that all these dysfunctions did not affect at all the result as they were proclaimed by the electoral commission. This was a key issue during that meeting,” said Mende. “We reviewed all these reports and none [is] challenging the fact that Kabila won. Even the Carter Center didn’t say Kabila didn’t win.”

He said the diplomats did call for an improvement in the organization of subsequent elections in the DRC.

“Let us have the electoral commission [to] enjoy the technical support from some countries who offered support, like the United States and the United Kingdom, so that it brings more amelioration for the [future] elections,” said Mende.

He also says the diplomats urged the government to begin a reconciliation effort to reduce tension following the disputed election.