Thu, Dec 08, 2011 - Page 6 News List

DR Congo postpones election results

DIASPORA PROTESTS:Tensions relating to the DR Congo presidential election have spilled over into street protests as far away as Toronto, Brussels, London and Ottawa

AFP, KINSHASA

The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s election commission late on Tuesday postponed declaring the winner of last week’s polls amid fears the result could lead to new violence as protests erupted worldwide.

The conflict-prone country has been on high alert while it awaits the final results after a campaign that saw deadly police crackdowns on opposition rallies and a series of clashes between rival partisans.

Early tallies showed Congolese President Joseph Kabila heading for re-election in the single-round vote, which pitted him against a divided opposition field of 10 candidates.

However, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) said late on Tuesday it needed more time to compile final results from around the vast central African country, promising a full count within 48 hours.

“We don’t have all the results sheets from the 169 local results compilation centers,” CENI spokesman Matthieu Mpita said. “That’s why we had to postpone the provisional results. To respect the law, we need to have all the results sheets in our possession.”

The postponement came after police fired tear gas to disperse opposition supporters in Kinshasa.

According to results issued late on Tuesday, Kabila led main rival Etienne Tshisekedi 49 percent to 33 percent, with 89 percent of polling centers counted.

DR Congo has been holding its breath since the vote, which was marred by chaos and rioting at polling stations, and deadly rebel attacks in the southeastern city of Lubumbashi.

Washington called on all political factions to reject violence and for the authorities to protect the population.

“Violence has no place in the democratic process,” US Department of State spokesman Mark Toner said. “The United States urges all [DR] Congolese political leaders and their supporters to act responsibly and to renounce violence, and reminds the government of the DRC of its responsibility to provide security for the Congolese population.”

About 20,000 soldiers are on stand-by at bases in Kinshasa, and convoys of large trucks packed with armed police carrying gas masks were seen on the capital’s unusually quiet streets.

Tensions also spilled over into the DR Congolese diaspora.

In London, about 300 anti-Kabila protesters accusing Western countries of backing the incumbent clashed with police -outside British Prime Minister David Cameron’s residence. Two people were treated for injuries. Seventeen were arrested on suspicion of obstructing a highway, a Scotland Yard spokesman said.

In Toronto, 150 protesters swarmed a police car and dirt was thrown at officers, prompting an emergency radio call for back up.

Two people were arrested, a police spokeswoman said.

DR Congolese protesters also clashed with police on Monday in Brussels, where nearly 100 -Tshisekedi supporters were arrested according to the Belga news agency, and in Johannesburg and Pretoria.

The International Crisis Group has put the DR Congo on its “conflict risk alert” list, citing clashes in Kinshasa on the eve of the polls, the attacks in Lubumbashi on voting day and a call from several opposition candidates for the vote to be annulled.

International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo issued a warning to the rival camps on Tuesday.

“We are closely watching the situation on the ground, and recourse to violence will not be accepted,” he said in a statement.

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