KINSHASA, Congo — On the eve of the first expected results of Congo’s long-delayed presidential election, President Donald Trump said military personnel had deployed to Central Africa to protect U.S. assets from possible “violent demonstrations,” while the country’s powerful Catholic church warned of a popular “uprising” if untrue results are announced, Stars and Stripes reports.
Congo faces what could be its first democratic, peaceful transfer of power since independence from Belgium in 1960, but election observers and the opposition have raised numerous concerns about voting irregularities as the country chooses a successor to longtime President Joseph Kabila.
The first results are expected on Sunday, and the United States and the African Union, among others, have urged Congo to release results that reflect the true will of the people. The U.S. has threatened sanctions against those who undermine the democratic process. Western election observers were not invited to watch the vote.
Internet and text messaging services were cut off the day after the election in an apparent effort by the government to prevent social media speculation about the voting results. The United States has urged that internet service be restored, and a United Nations human rights spokeswoman has warned that “these efforts to silence dissent could backfire considerably when the results are announced.”
The sudden revolt in Gabon, which has a long history of military relations with the U.S., highlights the region’s volatility. The country plays host to one of AFRICOM’s cooperative security locations, which function as bare-bones launching pads for quick-reaction troops called upon to secure U.S. diplomatic facilities in the broader region.
President Donald Trump, in his letter of notification Friday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about the U.S. deployment to Gabon, said more troops could be dispatched to Gabon, Congo or the separate Republic of Congo as needed.
“The troops will remain in the region until the security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo becomes such that their presence is no longer needed,” ~ President Trump
In a speech in December outlining the US’ Africa policy, President Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton said “terrorists operating in Africa have… repeatedly targeted US citizens and interests”.
The jihadist group has displayed its confidence through attacks such as the ambush last June on a combined force of Somali, Kenyan and American troops in Jamame town in southern Somalia, in which a US special forces soldier was killed.
Despite the insistence of the Somali government and Amisom that the group has been eliminated from the capital, Mogadishu, one of its leaders, Ali Dhere, was recently photographed hosting a charity event near the city.
Chris “Badger” Thomas is a Veteran who served our country as an Army Combat Medic.