News24

DRC cops seal off Tshisekedi home

2012-01-26 18:02

Kinshasa - Police in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday sealed off the Kinshasa residence of self-appointed "president-elect" Etienne Tshisekedi and dispersed his supporters with tear gas.

Tshisekedi, 79, is a veteran opposition leader who lost an election to the incumbent President Joseph Kabila last year but claims he was the victim of fraud at the polls.

He duly had himself "sworn in" and on Thursday asked members of his Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) to accompany him to the presidential palace to take up his functions.

From early in the morning, police shut down several streets in the Limete district of Kinshasa where Tshisekedi lives. They used tear gas to disperse the small groups of opposition supporters who turned up and made several arrests.

Police also barred access to journalists, including AFP correspondents, who were escorted out of the area and then released. One police officer explained that they were "protecting" the press from tear gas.

Kabila, who has been in power since January 2001, took nearly 49% of the vote in a November 28 election. Tshisekedi came second with 32%, but claims that he won and was the victim of massive fraud.

The UDPS on Wednesday called on Congolese people to "mobilise massively" on Thursday "to accompany [Tshisekedi] to his office in the Palace of the Nation," or presidential palace.

The leader of the UDPS has denounced widespread fraud in both the presidential and parliamentary polls, which were held simultaneously in November, and foreign and Congolese observer teams have also reported irregularities, along with the Roman Catholic church.

Tshisekedi on January 20 announced that he was taking up his "active functions" that day. On Sunday, the police prevented him from leaving his home and in subsequent days have prevented his aides from going in and talking to him.

The opposition leader's aides say that he is under an unofficial house arrest.