Clashes intensify in DRC as observers slam elections

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) tense election standoff intensified on Sunday after a team of international observers reported that incumbent Joseph Kabila’s win was so flawed it lacked credibility.

Kabila, in power since 2001, was on Friday named the winner of the November 28 poll, but runner-up Etienne Tshisekedi immediately rejected the result and declared himself president.

Violent protests and looting erupted in Kinshasa after the announcement. Police said four people had died in the unrest on Friday and Saturday.

Protests also spilled over to the Congolese diaspora in London and Brussels.

Election monitors from the Carter Centre, a non-profit organisation founded by former US president Jimmy Carter, added momentum on Saturday to Tshisekedi’s refusal to accept the results, saying they “lack credibility”.


“Multiple locations … reported impossibly high rates of 99 to 100% voter turnout with all, or nearly all, votes going to incumbent President Joseph Kabila,” the group said in a statement.

“These and other observations point to mismanagement of the results process and compromise the integrity of the presidential election.”

‘Poor’ rating
The Carter Centre said its observers gave a rating of “poor” to 40% of the 169 compilation centres where results were tabulated.

It reported irregularities including the loss of nearly 2 000 polling station results in Kinshasa, a Tshisekedi stronghold, and chaos in the counting process ranging from ballots piled on the floor and stepped on to results sheets soaked in a rain storm then hung on sticks to dry.

The European Union and other international and local observers have also cited serious problems with the vote, ranging from disorganisation at polling stations to ballot box stuffing.

The election commission said Kabila had won 49% of the vote to 32% for Tshisekedi.

Tshisekedi claimed his party’s own count based on results taken directly from polling centres showed he had in fact won with 54%.

“As a result, I consider myself from this day on as the elected president,” he said.

‘Irresponsible act’
Government spokesperson and Communications Minister Lambert Mende on Saturday threatened Tshisekedi with prosecution for the statement, which he called an “infraction of the law” and an “attack on the constitution”.

“It’s an irresponsible act that violates the laws of the republic,” he said. “The public prosecutor has the authority to take the matter to court.”

Exacerbating the volatile atmosphere, national police chief Charles Bisengimana said security forces had fatally shot three looters and a woman had been killed by a stray bullet during the unrest in the capital.

UN broadcaster Radio Okapi said six had died in the unrest.

After Kabila’s win was declared, protesters in Kinshasa set cars and tyres alight and threw stones at police, who responded with tear gas and shots fired in the air.

A heavy security force presence, including police, presidential guards and 20 000 soldiers on standby at military bases, put down the initial protests.

“The situation is totally under control,” Bisengimana said Saturday. “The hostile protests have been put down.”

But sporadic unrest erupted again on Saturday despite heavy patrols by police and soldiers, some toting rocket-propelled grenades, who fired shots in the air to disperse groups of people.

International protests
There were no reports of major violence in Lubumbashi, the restive capital of the south-eastern mining province of Katanga, which had seen campaign clashes between rival partisans and a pair of deadly rebel attacks on voting day.

In London, police arrested 143 people Saturday at an anti-Kabila demonstration that turned violent as protesters attacked cars and shops and threatened members of the public near Prime Minister David Cameron’s office, Scotland Yard said.

A protest in Brussels also turned violent on Friday, with police arresting two people suspected of throwing petrol bombs and detaining another 200 to check their papers, the Belga news agency reported.

Analysts have warned that the elections, just the second since back-to-back wars from 1996 to 2003, risk unleashing new conflict in the vast Central African country.

The campaign was marred by bloodshed that according to Human Rights Watch left at least 18 civilians dead, most shot by Kabila’s presidential guard. — AFP

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Manifesto against the presidency for life in Africa

If we do not take care, presidents will make lawlessness the standard of our civic life. Let’s make sure it does not come to that!

A murder in Congo

What does the decade-old “Congo-case,” involving two Norwegian mercenaries, tell us about residue coloniality in Scandinavia?

African countries aren’t borrowing too much: they’re paying too much for debt

African governments are issuing and listing their Eurobonds on established international debt markets – usually London and Irish Stock Exchanges

Pam Golding facilitates African kleptocrats’ money laundering

Government must take steps to clean up the country’s dirty real estate market, which has long offered a safe haven for criminals

JP Mika is a Congolese artist in full bloom

The painter, who hails from the DRC, is currently presenting his first solo exhibition outside his home country in Paris

Africa’s  ‘dinosaurs’ are dying out

Countries in political transition have very little time in which to deliver socioeconomic and political change
Advertising

Subscribers only

The shame of 40 000 missing education certificates

Graduates are being left in the lurch by a higher education department that is simply unable to deliver the crucial certificates proving their qualifications - in some cases dating back to 1992

The living nightmare of environmental activists who protest mine expansion

Last week Fikile Ntshangase was gunned down as activists fight mining company Tendele’s expansions. Community members tell the M&G about the ‘kill lists’ and the dread they live with every day

More top stories

Joe Biden’s debate guests run the only Zimbabwean restaurant in...

A Zimbabwean restaurant feeding people in need formed an unlikely addition to Joe Biden’s election campaign

The high road is in harm reduction

While the restriction of movement curtailed the health services for people who use drugs in some parts of the world, it propelled other countries into finding innovative ways to continue services, a new report reveals

Khaya Sithole: Tsakani Maluleke’s example – and challenge

Shattering the glass ceiling is not enough, the new auditor general must make ‘live’ audits the norm here in SA

State’s wage freeze sparks apoplexy

Public sector unions have cried foul over the government’s plan to freeze wages for three years and have vowed to fight back.
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday