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December 09, 2011

Congo Government Says Opposition Creates Climate of Fear

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, President Joseph Kabila's government says the main opposition candidate is creating a climate of fear by refusing to accept the president's re-election.

Congolese Information Minister Lambert Mende says opposition candidate Etienne Tshisekedi is acting irresponsibly by refusing to accept results that show he lost last month's vote to President Kabila.

Mr. Tshisekedi is committing a grave violation of the constitution by trying to subvert the decision of electoral authorities and declare himself president, Mende said.

The government, he added, has taken no disciplinary action against Mr. Tshisekedi, and all that is expected of the long-time opposition leader is that he respect the law like everyone else.

Congo's electoral commission Friday declared President Kabila re-elected with nearly 49 percent of the vote. Its final total gave Mr. Tshisekedi 32 percent of ballots cast.

Following those results, Mr. Tshisekedi said that the announcement was a provocation against the Congolese people, and he now considers himself president by the people's will.

Mr. Tshisekedi called on the international community to step in to avoid what he says could be “a new bloodbath on Congolese territory.”

Mende said the opposition leader's call for international action is “totally irrational.”

"What does he want the international community to do?," the minister asked. "Is this some sort of 'Hand of God' that over-rules the constitutional court and the Congolese people?"

Mendes asserted that the Congolese people did not choose him, adding that  Mr. Tshisekedi is seeking recourse through the international community because he has no other choice.

Mr. Tshisekedi's party says Congo's supreme court lacks the independence to rule fairly on electoral challenges. The opposition candidate is calling on his supporters to remain calm and await further instructions.

Some protestors burned cars in the capital's 20 May neighborhood, where heavily-armed policemen Saturday arrested several people, pushing them into unmarked vehicles and beating those who resisted. On Saturday, the situation remained tense in several cities in Congo, with sporadic gunfire erupting in the capital, Kinshasa.  

Four people have been killed in the country since Friday, when protesters and police clashed in Kinshasa following announcement of the election result.

Mr. Tshisekedi's call for calm comes at the same time that he is attacking the electoral commission and the constitution because there is no constitutional provision for politicians declaring themselves president, Mendes said. He said the opposition leader's actions violate the law and are entirely unacceptable.

Electoral commission chief Daniel Ngoy-Mulunda says the election results are no reason to “whip up the population against the established order to contest the results, or to settle scores."

Human Rights Watch says at least 18 people were killed and 100 injured in pre-election violence.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging Congolese to avoid further violence.

The US State Department says Congolese authorities should complete the electoral process “with maximum openness and transparency,” calling on all political leaders and their supporters to act responsibly and resolve any disagreements through existing legal channels.