Congo army ready to contain chaos
Kinshasa - Democratic Republic of Congo's government will call in the army if street protests become "too chaotic", a senior member of President Joseph Kabila's camp said on Monday, a day before full election results are due.
At least 18 people have been killed so far in election-related violence in the central African state, according to Human Rights Watch, amid allegations by opposition figures that the November 28 polls were mismanaged and fraudulent.
"We cannot let chaos prevail. If the situation became 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.
International efforts are under way to defuse what many fear could escalate into a crisis after results are released in the country, still scarred by a 1998-2003 war.
A national mediation commission is in place and former Zambian President Rupiah Banda may be involved in further talks, sources said.
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 UN to send a plane for him to travel. He has accepted to mediate," a spokesperson for Banda told Reuters, asking not to be named.
Top opposition challenger Etienne Tshisekedi enjoys broad support in Congo's sprawling capital Kinshasa, raising worries a Kabila win will spark unrest in the city of 10 million people.
There was a heavy security presence in many parts of Kinshasa on Monday and women and children piled into boats along the Congo River to leave the country for Congo Republic on the other bank, fearing an outbreak of violence.
"We decided to leave Kinshasa for Brazzaville to stay with family while we wait and see how things develop," said Paulette Pombo, a 43-year-old who sells drinks at a Kinshasa market.
Partial preliminary results released so far - representing about half the ballots cast - show Kabila with a sizeable lead over Tshisekedi. Full preliminary results are due on Tuesday.
Congo's Catholic Church urged election authorities on Sunday to ensure published poll results were a true reflection of voters' intentions and warned that a dispute over the election could trigger major unrest.
Congo's election commission defied all odds to hold the presidential and parliamentary poll last week. Often chaotic and at times violent, voting had to be stretched over three days due to delays in places.
International observers have warned that the various steps of the counting process after the initial tally at polling stations have been poorly organised, with ballots and results sheets often being lost or destroyed in the process.
Kabila's camp has said the president would accept defeat. But it accused the opposition of readying people for protests and said he will not tolerate any threats to his authority on the streets in the event of him winning.
The November 28 poll was the first locally organised and funded election since the official end of years of war in 2003. Kabila won a United Nations-backed vote in 2006, offering hope that the mineral-rich, crisis-riddled giant may stabilise.
Congo's government has beefed up security in anticipation of the announcement of the results. UN peacekeepers, Congolese riot police and heavily armed presidential guard soldiers patrolled the streets of Kinshasa.