ONCE AGAIN a poorly run election in a volatile African country threatens an explosion of bloodshed. The setting this time is particularly concerning: Congo, a country nearly the size of Western Europe, with a population of more than 70 million — and a history of civil war that killed millions between 1997 and 2002. An election Nov. 28 pitted the incumbent president, Joseph Kabila, against a 78-year-old populist icon, Étienne Tshisekedi. Poor organization, violence and attempts at manipulation made both the vote and the subsequent count a mess. On Friday, Mr. Kabila was declared the winner, but Mr. Tshisekedi refused to accept the result, and some of his supporters clashed with security forces in the capital, Kinshasa. Though an uneasy calm prevailed Sunday, Congo’s neighbors, the United Nations and outside parties such as the United States will have to keep working to prevent a crisis.
Residents of Kinshasa, a city of 10 million, have been bracing for trouble ever since preliminary returns showed Mr. Kabila with a wide lead in what was expected to be a close contest. Final results gave the president 49 percent, to 32 percent for Mr. Tshisekedi in a field of 11 candidates. Observers from the Carter Center said that the official results “lack credibility,” reporting that there was improbably high turnout in areas where Mr. Kabila is strong and that thousands of polling stations in Kinshasa, an opposition stronghold, had not been counted. Mr. Tshisekedi has been claiming he won since Election Day.