Bishop condemns DRC poll violence

2011-11-10 19:29

Kinshasa - The Roman Catholic archbishop of Kinshasa on Thursday condemned outbreaks of violence during the campaigning ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"People provoke each other, take up machetes, sometimes guns, they break and they burn, as if we were in the presence of enemies lined up for battle or as if the aim of the elections was to destroy the country," Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya told a press conference.

"We can only condemn and stigmatise these troubles which are close to barbaric. We urgently call on [the participants] to manifest wisdom and prudence, restraint and a democratic spirit," he added, denouncing the "frequency" of the events.

Since the beginning of the month-long electoral campaign on October 28, several people have been injured, particularly in Kinshasa in the west, Mbuji-Mayi in the centre and Lubumbashi in the southeast of the vast central African country.

Police have several times intervened to break up fighting between supporters of President Joseph Kabila's regime and the opposition.

On Sunday, veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, a presidential candidate in the November 28 polls, urged his supporters in a television broadcast to "break down the doors of the prisons" if opposition activists arrested during demonstrations were not released.

"The mood of the country in general and the capital in particular is characterised by mounting fear and nervousness, uncertainty if not panic," the archbishop said, adding that the Congolese people want to take part in "peaceful elections".

"How can we be confident in leaders incapable of protecting the population? How should we elect governors who don't give us guarantees of peace, justice, truth and love of the people," he added, calling on candidates "to reassure" the Congolese people.

During the elections of 2006, the church deployed 35 000 electoral observers, but that number will drop to 30 000 this year, due to lack of funds.

For the presidential and parliamentary elections, which are taking place in a single round, 11 candidates are seeking the presidency, while more than 18 800 candidates are seeking parliamentary seats.