KINSHASA (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo rejected on Friday an African Union demand to delay announcing final results from its presidential election, compounding the turmoil surrounding a chaotic vote that many fear could fan widespread unrest.
In a surprise announcement on Thursday, the AU called for the results to be postponed because of "serious doubts" over the conduct of the election, which was supposed to mark Congo's first democratic handover of power in 59 years of independence but which the runner-up candidate says was rigged.
The final tally will be released once the Constitutional Court has ruled on challenges to the provisional results. It is expected to decide on appeals, including that of opposition leader and second-placed Martin Fayulu, on Friday or Saturday.
"I do not think anyone has the right to tell the court what to do. I am not under the impression (the AU) fully understands Congo's judicial process," government spokesman Lambert Mende said. "No country in the world can accept that its judicial process be controlled by an (outside) organisation."
The AU's statement said it would send a delegation to Congo to seek "a way out of the post-electoral crisis". The mission will include Rwandan President and AU chair Paul Kagame, Moussa Faki, chairman of the AU Commission, and other heads of state.
Mende said the AU delegation was welcome, but that the post-election process would remain unchanged.
Provisional results announced last week showed a shock victory for opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi. But Fayulu requested a recount, saying he had won with over 60 percent of the vote and that Tshisekedi was announced victor only after striking a deal with outgoing President Joseph Kabila.
Congo's influential Catholic Church said the official results were inconsistent with its own tallies. Three diplomats briefed on the Church's findings said they pointed to a clear victory for Fayulu, a former Exxon Mobil country manager.
Both Kabila and Tshisekedi's camps have denied any such manoeuvre. They have also denied accusations of fraud.
But the AU statement heaps more pressure on Kinshasa to address what independent monitors described as serious flaws in the process including faulty balloting machines and polling stations at which many were unable to vote.
An AU endorsement of the result is crucial for the legitimacy of the next president.
Congo, a vast and volatile country of 80 million people sprawling across central Africa, is the world's leading miner of cobalt, used in electric car batteries and mobile phones, and Africa's biggest copper producer.
But poor governance, endemic corruption and violent factional anarchy, especially in the east, have left many in poverty and dissatisfied with Kabila's 18-year rule.
Many Congolese are now concerned that the election dispute will fan widespread, violent disorder.
The U.N. human rights office said on Friday it had documented 34 people killed, 59 wounded and 241 arbitrary arrests since the provisional results were announced on Jan. 10.
(Writing by Sofia Christensen; Editing by Edward McAllister and Mark Heinrich)