11/26/2011

AFRICA: Violence mars DR Congo election rallies

BBC-AFRICA NEWS
 

Tension is high in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, after violence at pre-election rallies left at least one person dead.
Supporters of President Joseph Kabila and the main opposition candidate, Etienne Tshisekedi, pelted each other with stones and police fired tear gas.
Final rallies were due to be held on Saturday ahead of Monday's parliamentary and presidential vote.
But police banned them at the last minute after the violence.
"Because of the escalating violence seen in Kinshasa, all public demonstrations and other political meetings are cancelled this Saturday," Governor Andre Kimbuta said. "This is for a better result of the electoral process."
President Joseph Kabila and his two main rivals had been due to hold rallies within several hundred metres of each other, at the capital's main stadium.
Tens of thousands of people had gathered at Kinshasa main airport to welcome Mr Tshisekedi, the Associated Press reported.
Mr Tshisekedi defied the police ban, telling supporters: "We are going to Stade des Martyrs. That's where I'm going to hold my rally."
However his car was blocked by police, who parked a large armoured truck across the road.
Earlier, police said a man had been fatally hit in the head with a stone.
An AP photographer said he had seen two dead bodies, and that police had opened fire on a crowd of opposition supporters.
Vital Kamerhe, the third opposition candidate, told Reuters that four people were killed, including one of his supporters, but there was no confirmation of that.
Ballots delayed
The elections on Monday see 11 candidates running for president and more than 18,000 candidates for the 500-seat parliament.
It will be the second presidential poll since the 1998-2003 war.
However, there are concerns over the distribution of ballot papers, as some planes bound for the country's regions have been unable to take off because of bad weather.
Mr Tshisekedi has also alleged that the head of the national election commission favoured Mr Kabila, and that "ghost" polling stations would be used to rig the result.
The last election, in 2006, was marred by weeks of street battles led by supporters of the losing candidate.
The BBC's correspondent in Kinshasa, Will Ross, said whether it is peaceful or not this time will depend to a great extent on the behaviour of the candidates and whether the losers are willing to accept defeat.