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Police fire on protest march

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-07-16

Protesters took to the streets of Brazzaville on Wednesday shortly after President Denis Sassou-Nguesso was declared the winner of Sunday’s presidential election in a poll widely criticised by rights groups and the opposition.

Protests broke out on the streets of Brazzaville Wednesday shortly after incumbent Congolese President Denis Sassou-Nguesso was officially declared the winner of Sunday’s presidential election.

Reporting from Brazzaville, FRANCE 24’s Arnaud Zajtman said hundreds of people, led by opposition leaders, took to the streets near the parliament building Wednesday following the announcement of the election results. As the demonstrators tried to move towards the more populated parts of the city, anti-riot police attempted to scatter the protests using tear gas. Gun shots were also heard in the city, according to Zajtman.

“I saw some demonstrators being beaten up by the anti-riot police forces,” said Zajtman. “One man was bleeding from his head.”


There were few details available on the extent of the casualties sustained by opposition demonstrators.

Tensions have been high in the oil-rich former French colony following the opposition boycott of Sunday’s poll.

Sassou-Nguesso wins another seven-year term  

Earlier Wednesday, Congolese officials announced that Sassou-Nguesso had won another seven years in office after taking 78.6 percent of the vote in Sunday's presidential election.

According to official figures, the former military ruler had easily beaten 12 other candidates, six of whom had asked for a boycott of the poll on the grounds that it would be rigged. The opposition also contests the turnout.
   
Former finance minister Mathias Dzon of the Alliance for Democracy and the Republic, considered to be Sassou Nguesso's main rival, took 2.30 percent of the votes, the provisional official figures said.
   
Joseph Kignoumbi Kia Mboungou, an independent candidate, came in second place with 7.46 percent, and beat Nicephore Fylla de Saint-Eudes of the Liberal Republican Party, who got 6.98 percent.
   
"Voting took place (...) in peace and transparency, the candidates having been told they had the right to a representative in each polling station," said the territorial administration minister, Raymond Mboulou.
   
But the opposition has widely criticised the conduct of the whole poll by the government ministry and by the electoral commission, which they accuse of being a tool of the regime.
   
Opposition boycott calls

Several opposition leaders who called for a boycott of the polls said on Wednesday that police had prevented them from holding a press conference on the grounds that it was an unauthorised "public rally."
   
Dzon said the briefing was to have been held at the parliament buildings in central Brazzaville, but security forces had taken over the place "to stop our press conference."  

Sassou Nguesso, 66, is one of Africa's long-serving leaders having first come to power three decades ago.
   
His first stint as president of the former French colony stretched from 1979 to 1992 and he returned to the presidency in 1997 after a civil war.
   
Sassou Nguesso was re-elected in 2002 in a vote that international observers said fell short of democratic standards.
   
Small teams of monitors from the African Union and the 10-nation Economic Community of Central African States gave this year's poll a clean bill of health.
   
"The electoral campaign took place in a calm and serene atmosphere," they said in a joint statement.
   
However, the Congolese Observatory of Human Rights, a non-governmental organisation, said the poll was badly marred by "fraud and irregularities."
   
The local observer team concluded that the election was "neither fair, nor transparent, nor balanced" and had been marked by a "very weak" turnout.
   
 

Date created : 2009-07-16

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