DR Congo ‘to use army in event of poll chaos’

Senior member of government says army will be deployed if street protests against election result become “too chaotic”.

The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo will call in the army if street protests against the outcome of the country’s election become “too chaotic,” a senior member of President Joseph Kabila’s camp has said, a day before full results are due.

At least 18 people have been killed so far in election-related violence in the central African state, according to Human Rights Watch, amid allegations by opposition figures that the November 28 polls were mismanaged and fraudulent.

“We cannot let chaos prevail. If the situation became too chaotic for the police, we will definitely call for the army to
come and help,” Kikaya Bin Karubi, Congo’s ambassador to Britian and a top official in Kabila’s camp, told the Reuters news agency on Monday.

International efforts are under way to defuse what many fear could escalate into a crisis after results are released in the country, still scarred by a 1998 to 2003 war.

A national mediation commission is in place and former Zambian President Rupiah Banda may be involved in further talks, sources said.

Karubi said mediation was a “non-starter” as there was no current conflict, though a spokesman for Banda said he had been approached and was ready to travel to Congo.

“He is just waiting for the UN to send a plane for him to travel. He has accepted to mediate,” a spokesman for Banda told Reuters, asking not to be named.

People leaving

Top opposition challenger Etienne Tshisekedi enjoys broad support in Congo’s sprawling capital Kinshasa, raising worries a Kabila win will spark unrest in the city of 10 million people.

There was a heavy security presence in many parts of Kinshasa on Monday, as women and children piled into boats along the Congo River to leave the country for Congo Republic on the other bank, fearing an outbreak of violence.

“We decided to leave Kinshasa for Brazzaville to stay with family while we wait and see how things develop,” said Paulette Pombo, a 43-year-old who sells drinks at a Kinshasa market.

“Kinshasa is not the place to be right now,” Rika, a 24-year-old Congolese national, said, adding that she will go to Brazzaville for four days.

Partial preliminary results released so far – representing about half the ballots cast, show Kabila with a sizeable lead over Tshisekedi. Full preliminary results are due on Tuesday.

Often chaotic and at times violent, voting had to be stretched over three days due to delays in places.

International observers have warned that the various steps of the counting process after the initial tally at polling stations have been poorly organised, with ballots and results sheets often being lost or destroyed in the process. 

Texts blocked

Kabila’s camp has said the president would accept defeat.

But it accused the opposition of readying people for protests and said he will not tolerate any threats to his authority on the streets in the event of him winning. 

In Kinshasa, the government ordered cell phone providers to block text message services on their networks until further notice, after a flurry of election-related rumours swirled via SMS.

Benjamin Bajikijaie, president of the Commission of Election Surveillance (CSE), an organisation within leading opposition candidate Tshisekedi’s UDPS party, told Al Jazeera that the suspension of short message services was disturbing their attempts to collection information.

“We are monitoring the elections and collecting our own data from polling stations across the country who were sending us information through SMS, but the cancellation of services are causing major operations hassles for us,” Bajikijaie said

Still counting

Some international officials close to the process say that the election commission may not be able to meet Tuesday’s deadline.

David Pottie, from the US-based Carter Centre, said that completing the count by [Tuesday] “will take a tremendous amount of work”.

Pottie told Al Jazeera that the monitoring team had not completed their assessment of the entire electoral process, but had issues with the level of transparency and lack of ready information.

“It has been difficult to follow that results from the level of the polling station, through the various processes through to the compilation centers, where entire region results are released,” he said.

“Theoretically, CENI have the results from individual polling stations, but publishing a compilation of results rather than individual stations make it difficult to see if the results add up.

“Parties have to rely in their witnesses and others who have to physically go to polling stations and record the amount of vote so they have something to compare with.

“Information is the best ventilation in alleviating rumours, but little of that so far … and in many places just 50 per cent have been counted,” he said.

‘South Africa does not interfere’

In South Africa, police fired rubber bullets on Monday to disperse DR Congo opposition supporters in Johannesburg and arrested those who tried to storm their embassy in Pretoria, the Sapa news agency and an AFP correspondent, said.

A group had gathered in front of the ruling ANC party headquarters to protest against South Africa’s alleged involvement in fraud in the Congolese elections, protesters told Sapa.

“South Africa does not have a preference of leadership in other countries. We leave it to the people of DRC to decide who it is they want to lead their country,” Clayson Monyela, Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesperson, told Al Jazeera.

“It is incorrect to say SA prefers one candidate over another. South Africa does not interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign country.”

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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