Rights Group: 18 Dead in Election-Related Violence in DRC

Posted December 2nd, 2011 at 7:55 am (UTC-5)
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Human Rights Watch says election-related violence killed at least 18 civilians and seriously wounded 100 others in the run-up to this week's parliamentary and presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The US-based human rights group said Friday that most of those killed were shot dead by Republican Guard soldiers in the capital of Kinshasa.

The United Nations urged calm in the country on Thursday after international observers reported violence and widespread voting irregularities in the election, which began Monday.

Meanwhile, Congo's government says it is bracing for possible violence following next week's announcement of results.

Security minister Adolphe Lumanu says his forces are prepared for a post-election dispute.

Adolphe Lumanu, Interior and Security Vice Prime Minister: “We have a plan to provide security during the electoral process. While we were preparing for the elections, we knew that there were those who were getting ready to contest the elections. I think that we are sufficiently prepared, we have a well trained and equipped police force, we are ready to face the situation, today, tomorrow and after the elections.”))

A preliminary European Union report says election observers saw ballot box stuffing and ballot shortages, and that some people were turned away from the polls.

Witnesses also say they saw thousands of plastic bags with ballots piled up in a parking lot in Kinshasa. They say ballots blew away and others were soaked by rain when some of the bags broke open.

An official with Congo's Independent National Election Commission told VOA the reports are “exaggerated.”

President Joseph Kabila is running for re-election against 10 challengers, three of whom have called for the vote to be annulled.

A fourth opposition candidate, Vital Kamerhe, has withdrawn his call for annulment, saying voting conditions improved as the election went on.

Vital Kamerhe, opposition leader, “My position is clear. My people and my nation pass before my ambitions. It's first Congolese, our nation. I refuse war in our country.”))

African Union and other African observers have said the election was successful despite logistical problems.

U.S.-based monitors from the Carter Center reported a range of irregularities and logistical problems.

The election was originally set to last one day but stretched into three because of irregularities.

Final results of the presidential vote are expected before President Kabila's term expires on December 6, while parliamentary results are not expected until January.