Clashes erupt in Congo ahead of vote results
06 December 2011, 08:57
Kinshasa - Clashes erupted between protesters and security forces in parts of Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday as diplomats scrambled to defuse tensions ahead of the country's full election results.
Police fired tear gas at opposition supporters in Kinshasa, and gunfire rang out in a city in West Kasai province, an opposition stronghold, after the government shut down a television and radio broadcaster.
The U.N. mission in Congo led a delegation of diplomats to meet with incumbent President Joseph Kabila and his main rival, Etienne Tshisekedi, to ease tensions stretched by allegations the November 28 poll was mismanaged and fraudulent.
Partial preliminary results released so far - representing about 68 percent of the ballots cast - showed Kabila with about 46 percent of the vote to Tshisekedi's 36 percent, but the opposition has said they would reject the outcome. Full preliminary results are expected as early as Tuesday.
At least 18 people have been killed in election-related violence, according to Human Rights Watch, and a senior member of Kabila's camp said the government will have to call in the army if protests become "too chaotic".
"We cannot let chaos prevail. If the situation becomes too chaotic for the police, we will definitely call for the army to come and help," Kikaya Bin Karubi, Congo's ambassador to Britian and a top official in Kabila's camp, told Reuters.
The first locally organised and funded election since the official end of years of war in 2003 was meant to offer hope that the mineral-rich, crisis-riddled giant may stabilise.
But fears are mounting a rejection of the results will pave the way for further bloodshed.
Escape by boat
A national mediation commission is in place and former Zambian President Rupiah Banda may be involved in further talks, sources said. The United Nations peacekeeping mission also led a delegation that included Russian and Gabonese ambassadors to meet with Kabila and Tshisekedi.
Karubi said mediation was a "non-starter" as there was no current conflict, though a spokesman for Banda said he had been approached and was ready to travel to Congo.
"He is just waiting for the U.N. to send a plane for him to travel. He has accepted to mediate," a spokesman for Banda told Reuters, asking not to be named.
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