DRC vote results trickle in amid violence fears

2011-12-03 07:48

President Joseph Kabila and veteran opposition head Etienne Tshisekedi were ahead of the pack in early results from Democratic Republic of the Congo’s elections, officials said yesterday, amid mounting tension and fears of more violence.

The Independent National Electoral Commission had not been scheduled to release results from Monday’s vote until a provisional presidential count next week, but said it had decided to call an early press conference to dispel a flood of rumours about who was ahead.

Both Kabila’s and Tshisekedi’s camps claimed large leads for their candidates in a flurry of internet posts, text messages and pamphlets handed out on the street, fuelling tensions and fears of unrest in the wake of elections marred by deadly violence and rioting at some polling centres.

The electoral commission also said its website had been hacked yesterday and fake results briefly posted.

“It’s necessary to cut short the rumours that are circulating on the internet, given by unauthorised people.

We can’t stay silent,” electoral commission spokesperson Mathieu Mpita told AFP.

The initial results, reflecting 15% of about 64 000 polling centres, gave Kabila 52% of the vote, Tshisekedi 34% and ex-national assembly speaker Vital Kamerhe 4.5%.

The figures include less than 1% of polling centres in the capital Kinshasa, a Tshisekedi stronghold where Kabila has limited support.

The early announcement followed a call from the EU yesterday for transparency in the counting and results publication process.

Electoral commission is scheduled to release provisional presidential results Tuesday. The supreme court must announce the definitive results by December 17, with inauguration day set for December 20.

The decision to release early results was a bid to defuse the tension as the country waits for the outcome of only its second elections since back-to-back wars from 1996 to 2003.

Three opposition candidates have called for the vote to be annulled, while the ruling coalition has accused Tshisekedi’s party of plotting to spark post-poll violence.

Adding to the charged atmosphere Friday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said election-related violence in the country had already killed 18 civilians.

In the most extensive report yet on violence around the polls, the New York-based rights group, which examined election-related killings from the last day of campaigning on November 26 to the vote two days later, said most of the victims were shot dead by security forces in the capital.

HRW said at least 12 opposition partisans and bystanders were shot dead when Kabila’s guard cracked down on a gathering of Tshisekedi supporters near Kinshasa’s main airport after local police had banned all political rallies.

It said the crackdown may have been provoked by opposition supporters throwing stones.

“Elections don’t give soldiers an excuse to randomly shoot at crowds,” Anneke van Woudenberg, the group’s senior Africa researcher, said.

“The authorities should immediately suspend those responsible for this unnecessary bloodshed and hold them to account.”

Other civilians were killed and wounded during clashes between rival parties, attacks by armed groups and mob violence, HRW said. At least 100 civilians were seriously wounded in election-related violence, it added.

Government spokesperson Lambert Mende told AFP he would need to examine the report before responding.

The HRW toll was substantially higher than figures that had been released by officials.

Since the polls, international observers have released preliminary reports citing irregularities including attempted ballot box stuffing and masses of voters being turned away from polling centres.

But two key monitoring missions, the EU and the Carter Center, both said they need more time to verify reports from around the vast country two-thirds the size of Western Europe.

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