Fearing Congo violence, US deploys small military force to Gabon

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Democratic Republic of Congo's government cut internet connections and SMS services across the country for a second straight day on Tuesday as the country nervously awaited results from the weekend's chaotic presidential election.

The electoral commission's statements on Friday were in a letter to the church and were confirmed to The Associated Press by the commission's president, Corneille Nangaa. An exact new date has not been announced.

A polling official counts votes in a school in Kinshasa on December 30, 2018, during Democratic Republic of Congo's general elections.

"Now more than ever the Congolese people need assurance that the authorities are genuinely committed to the respect for human rights and allowing people to access information from diverse sources and communicate freely is a key part of that".

Tension is also growing between electoral commission and National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), an influential and independent group that deployed 40,000 observers on voting day, after the latter said on Thursday that the results it has so far collected indicated who had won, without identifying the person. "We are making progress, but we do not have everything yet".

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Congo's ruling party, which backs Kabila's preferred candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, called the church's statement "irresponsible and anarchist".

Kabila's government has cut off internet in the Congo, and shut down Radio France Internationale (RFI) and some local media outlets this week, saying it wanted to prevent the circulation of "fake" results.

The United States and the African Union, among others, have urged Congo to release results that reflect the true will of the people.

On Friday, US President Donald Trump announced he had ordered the US military to deploy soldiers to Gabon, one of nine countries which border the DRC, to protect US citizens and diplomatic facilities should violence break out.

Global pressure is growing on Congo to restore internet service - blocked in an apparent attempt to calm election speculation - and release accurate election results, with the United States warning that those who undermine the democratic process could face US sanctions.

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The head of the electoral commission said this was because less than half the ballots had arrived.

"Additional forces may deploy to Gabon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or the Republic of the Congo, if necessary for these purposes", added the letter, which Trump said was in line with his obligations under the War Powers Resolution (Public Law 93-148).

The electoral commission said voting could not take place in the eastern cities of Beni and Butembo because of a deadly Ebola outbreak in the region.

The election could stand as Congo's first peaceful democratic transfer of power since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960.

Shadary faced off in Sunday's poll against two main opposition challengers, Felix Tshisekedi and Martin Fayulu, both of whom opinion polls before the vote showed running ahead of Shadary.

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They did not name anyone but urged election officials "to publish the election results in keeping with truth and justice".

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