Clashes in the DR Congo between security forces and opposition protesters killed at least one person Saturday, a day after incumbent president Joesph Kabila won a disputed poll. The UN joined international appeals for peace in the region.
REUTERS - Clashes between opposition protesters and security forces broke out in parts of Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday, killing at least one, a day after election authorities named incumbent President Joseph Kabila winner of a disputed poll.
Gunfire rang out in some cities, including the capital Kinshasa, after Kabila’s main challenger, Etienne Tshisekedi, said he rejected the official results and declared himself the new leader of the vast central African state.
An official at the U.S.-based Carter Center election observer mission said some results released on the election commission website appeared suspicious, with some areas showing 100 percent turnout with all votes going to Kabila.
“These results aren’t even naturally occurring. You simply don’t get that many people all being healthy, motivated, getting to the polls and voting in such unison,” Carter Center mission manager David Pottie said.
Tresor Nkuna, a resident of Kinshasa, an urban sprawl of 10 million people, said “we haven’t been able to sleep because of the gunfire. We don’t know when it’ll stop, it’s very violent.”
Many other parts of Kinshasa were quiet with people staying indoors, witnesses said, but clashes between protesters and security forces were reported elsewhere in the country, with the United Nations reporting at least one dead. Protests also erupted in former colonial power Belgium.
Congo’s Nov. 28 vote was its first locally-organised presidential contest since a 1998-2003 war that killed more than 5 million people, and was meant to move the country on a path to greater stability. But the poll was marked by violence, chaotic preparations and allegations of fraud.
Concerns are mounting of a prolonged and violent dispute over the outcome, and diplomatic sources have said international mediation efforts may be needed to avert a crisis.
Congo’s election commission announced on Friday that Kabila took nearly 49 percent of the votes to Tshisekedi’s roughly 32 percent, winning him a new mandate. The results must now be ratified by the Supreme Court.
Tshisekedi called the results “a provocation” and said he considered himself Congo’s new president.
In the Manono district of Katanga, where Kabila has strong support, voter turnout was recorded at 100.14 percent with Kabila winning 99.98 percent of the votes.
The election commission website also showed that the results from nearly 2,000 polling stations in opposition stronghold Kinshasa had not been tallied.
An election commission official said the body was planning to investigate some of the results, but added that overwhelming support for Kabila in Katanga was to be expected.
The United States and the African Union urged against post-election violence and called on Congolese security forces to use restraint. The United Nations said challenges to the results should go through the proper legal channels.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Friday the Kinshasa government “remains responsible for providing security for the people of the Congo” and that anyone involved in violence “must be held accountable.”
Situation under control
Congo police chief General Charles Bisengimana acknowledged ongoing clashes on Saturday, but said security forces were “controlling the situation very well.”
“People are trying to pillage shops and barricade roads and we are dispersing them,” he told Reuters by telephone.
A United Nations source said some civilians appeared to be armed and were shooting in parts of Kinshasa.
Trucks loaded with police and military were moving in and out of the area near Tshisekedi’s residence, where the remnants of burnt tyres and makeshift roadblocks were scattered.
“Security is chaotic, the police are arresting people for no reason, I’ve heard lots of gunshots,” said Albert Utudi, a resident of Matete district.
Anti-western sentiment was running high with many Tshisekedi supporters accusing foreigners of backing Kabila, and a Reuters car was stoned by angry residents in Ndjili district.
In the Kasai provinces, where support for Tshisekedi is strong, clashes erupted between stone-throwing protesters and security forces, an official said.
“After Tshisekedi declared himself president his supporters took to the streets, throwing stones and pillaging,” said East Kasai’s governor Alphonse Kasanji. “The army are deployed in trouble spots and the police are mobilized everywhere.”
Alphonse Kasuasua, the president of civil society in East Kasai, said security forces were using live bullets.
“I tried to go out this morning but the security forces were firing to force people back into their homes,” Kasuasua said, adding that he had heard reports of one person killed.
The U.N. reported at least one casualty in Kananga, the capital of neighbouring West Kasai.
In Brussels, police arrested about 200 people late Friday after protesters threw Molotov cocktails and smashed shop windows.
At least 18 people had been killed in election-related clashes in Congo by earlier this week, according to U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, as opposition supporters accused Kabila’s government of vote rigging.
Kabila came to power when his father, Laurent, was assassinated in 2001, and later won the country’s 2006 election. He has struggled to control marauding rebel groups in Congo’s east despite U.N. backing.
Congo is last on the U.N. human development index despite rich mineral resources, and investors say it remains one of the most challenging countries in the world in which to do business.
Date created : 2011-12-10