AU urges DRC to consolidate democracy, preserve peace following provisional election results

On the other, Tshisekedi is vulnerable to a legal challenge over the validity of his Belgian diploma, which is alleged to be fake - holding a diploma is a requirement for anyone running as a presidential candidate in DR Congo.

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, has said that he has taken notice with a satisfied view of the provisional results of the presidential election in the Democratic Republic of the Congo released on Thursday.

Fayulu, who vowed in his campaign to to clean up Congo's widespread corruption, received more than 6 million votes, or 34 percent, of the electoral commission's results. She said Shadary would make a statement on the results in a few hours.

Tshisekedi, meanwhile, whose victory was declared at about 0200 GMT paid his respects to outgoing President Joseph Kabila, and described him as a "partner in democratic change". He called on people to "rise as one man to protect victory".

"The result of the presidential election as published by CENI does not correspond with the data collected by our observer mission from polling stations and counting centres", said Father Donatien Nshole, spokesman for CENCO, which represents the country's Catholic bishops.

The church did not name a victor, but reports say it's count finds opposition candidate and businessman Martin Fayulu coming out on top.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian demanded clarity on results "which are the opposite to what we expected".

The provisional results put candidate Felix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo ahead of Martin Fayulu Madidi and Emmanuel Shadary.

The commission declared opposition leader, Felix Tshisekedi, the official victor early on Thursday in what could lead to Congo's first democratic transfer of power.

Tshisekedi, who received more than 7 million votes, or 38 per cent, had not been widely considered the leading candidate and is relatively untested.

"Of course we are not happy as our candidate lost, but the Congolese people have chosen and democracy has triumphed", Kikaya told Reuters shortly after opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi was declared the victor.

Its secretary general, Donatien Nshole, refused to say who won the election according to its findings but diplomats briefed on the results said they indicated Mr Fayulu won easily. Fayulu has implied that the front knew Shadary was unlikely to win and so made a decision to promote Tshisekedi instead.

DR Congo has never had a peaceful handover of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.

The preliminary results of the December 30 vote had been expected on Sunday, but the commission indefinitely delayed the announcement, to the growing suspicion of many Congolese. He is barred from serving three consecutive terms, but until he announced past year that he would step aside many Congolese feared he'd find a way to stay in office. "This is the beginning of national reconciliation". As the electoral commission met this week, anti-riot police moved into place outside.

Rich in minerals but mired in poverty, the country has suffered two major wars in the past 22 years, as well as bloodshed in elections in 2006 and 2011 that saw Kabila returned to office.

Gleeful Tshisekedi supporters who took to the streets in Kinshasa to celebrate said they were happy to see Kabila step down.

  • Joey Payne