150 Congolese held over vote violence

2012-01-21 10:00
Johannesburg - South African police arrested 150 supporters of opposing Congolese political factions over public violence during the DR Congo's chaotic electoral process, a spokesperson said on Friday.

A special task force arrested the suspects, all from the Democratic Republic of Congo, at their homes in Johannesburg after a series of clashes between expatriate supporters of Congolese President Joseph Kabila and opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, said police spokesperson Dennis Adriao.

"We followed up and arrested 150 people for public violence after investigations," he told AFP.

The arrests were made in the suburbs of Yeoville, Jeppe and Hillbrow, where thousands of Congolese and other African immigrants have flocked after travelling to the continent's economic powerhouse in search of work.

Identifying ringleaders

The area was the scene of aggressive campaigning in the run-up to the November 28 presidential elections in the DR Congo. Tshisekedi even visited Johannesburg ahead of the poll.

"As cases were reported a task team of detectives was formed," said Adriao.

Police studied footage of incidents to identify the ringleaders and held an identity parade on Friday, he said.

But a Congolese activist told AFP the arrests were politically motivated.

"The government of the DRC wants to silence Congolese that were campaigning for democracy in the DRC here in South Africa," said Jean-Pierre Lukamba, the deputy chairman of the African Diaspora Forum.

Arrests

Adriao denied the accusation.

"People were arrested from both sides. Who a person supports is irrelevant to us," he said.

The group will appear in court on Monday. More arrests might be made over the weekend, said Adriao.

Incumbent Kabila was declared the winner of the election with almost 49% of the vote to just over 32% for Tshisekedi, but the poll was marred by fraud allegations.

In the wake of the vote, often violent protests erupted among the Congolese diasporas in Belgium, Britain, Canada, France and South Africa.

Read more on:    joseph kabila  |  etienne tshisekedi  |  johannesburg  |  drc  |  central africa
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