DRC Security Clamps Down on Opposition ‘Inauguration’

Posted December 23rd, 2011 at 1:20 pm (UTC-5)
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Police in the Democratic Republic of Congo fired tear gas Friday at supporters of opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi who had gathered in Kinshasa for his self-declared “swearing-in” ceremony.

Mr. Tshisekedi insists he won last month's presidential poll and called on supporters to gather at Martyrs Stadium in the capital for his inauguration .

The government has banned the gathering and fired tear gas at opposition supporters who had gathered near the stadium.

Meanwhile, supporters say Mr. Tshisekedi remained sealed off in his home by security forces who had encircled his neighborhood.

Military troops and police patrolled the capital, particularly areas where that largely support Mr. Tshisekedi's Union for Democracy and Social Progress.

Opposition party leader Jacquemin Shabani told VOA at least five people died in clashes, but that report could not be independently confirmed.

A spokesperson for President Joseph Kabila's political party denied the government was trying to restrict Mr. Tshisekedi's movement. Bernadette Mpundu said troops and police were simply trying to keep the peace.

The country's electoral commission named incumbent leader Joseph Kabila the winner of last month's presidential election, but Mr. Tshisekedi, who finished second, rejected the result as fraudulent and proclaimed himself president.

His adviser Valentin Mubake told VOA that Mr. Kabila won only through “massive fraud” and rejected assertions that Mr. Tshisekedi might destabilize the country.

“Before thinking about the destabilization of the country, we have to think about the truth of the vote. The reality of the elections is that Mr. Tshisekedi has been elected by the Congolese people. That (means) the stabilization of Congo and that is reality.”

International observers said the poll was deeply flawed, especially in the vote-counting process that American observers termed chaotic.

The election has sparked protests both inside and outside the DRC. On Thursday, rights group Human Rights Watch said Congolese security forces have killed at least 24 people since Mr. Kabila's victory was announced last week.

The report said security forces have been firing on small crowds in an apparent attempt to prevent demonstrations.

The November presidential and legislative polls were only the second free elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo's history.

Vote counting in the parliamentary elections was suspended this week. Officials say they need assistance from foreign election experts.