U.S. sends troops ahead of possible Congo election protests


US President Donald Trump said on Friday that American military personnel had been deployed to Gabon in response to possible violent demonstrations in the Democratic Republic of Congo after a presidential election there.

The first members of this USA contingent arrived in Libreville, Gabon on January 2, Trump said in a letter sent to Congress on Friday.

Kabila's government refused to accredit election monitors from the European Union and the USA -based Carter Center, which said there were widespread irregularities in the 2011 election.

The result of the poll, which featured 21 candidates, is due to be announced on Sunday, although the DRC's electoral commission announced that this may be pushed back.

"Those who enable a peaceful, democratic transfer of power out of respect for DRC's constitution and the results of this election will be hailed, while those responsible for undermining democratic institutions and processes, threatening the peace, security, or stability of DRC or benefiting from corruption ‎will be held accountable".

The SADC's qualified endorsement countered allegations by opposition candidates that the December 30 vote was marred by widespread irregularities and criticism by a senior USA lawmaker that the election was "neither free nor fair".

"Authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo should reverse their systematic campaign of censorship and instead prioritize journalists' ability to keep citizens informed", said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal.

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The opposition has expressed concern that the vote could be stolen by Kabila, who had delayed elections for two years after the end of his second and final term.

Definitive results are due to be published on January 15, and the swearing-in of the new president three days later, according to this schedule.

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.

Tensions have risen further over the marathon counting process with opposition fears running high that the result will be rigged to favour Kabila's preferred successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.

Kabila's government has also cut off internet access and shut down Radio France Internationale and local media outlets in order to prevent the circulation of "fake" results. But the election's credibility has come under suspicion after ongoing delays in reporting the results.

Some 1 million of Congo's 40 million registered voters were barred from Sunday's election at the last minute as the electoral commission blamed a deadly Ebola virus outbreak in the east. Both Shadary and the opposition say they expect to win.