Congo's fragile transitional government went to considerable length Tuesday to quash rumors President had been attacked and hurt. The presidential palace invited journalists to witness a meeting the president held with four of his vice-presidents. Still, the rumors spread panic through Kinshasa, with residents heading home from work early.
A string of rumors about alleged attacks on Congo's president, which had spread wildly around the sprawling capital during the last 24 hours, were dispelled Tuesday afternoon when Joseph Kabila was shown to be well and in control of a cabinet meeting.
The rumors that the president's house was attacked Monday night and his convoy on Tuesday caused many of Kinshasa's estimated six million residents to panic in fear of renewed bloodletting in the war-torn country.
By Tuesday afternoon, many had left work early, crowding city buses and causing traffic jams across the capital.
But later in the afternoon, journalists were invited to the office building where the 34-year-old
president was seen chairing a high level meeting with colleagues in the transitional government,
which was set up after Congos civil war.
The interior minister told the assembled journalists the rumors were an attempt by those who do
not want elections to take place to disrupt the fragile transitional process towards democracy.
Much of Congo's fighting ended as the former belligerents formed a transitional government in 2003, charged with shepherding the vast African nation to elections in June this year. But tensions between the parties remain and little progress has been made towards organizing the polls on time.
Diplomats said the rumors may have been false, but they underline how fearful people are of a new bout of chaos in the central African country.
Congo's war, which sucked in six neighboring countries, began in 1998 and lasted for five years.
Although the conflict has officially ended, insecurity persists, especially in the east of the country. An international aid agency estimates that 1,000 people continue to die every day, mostly from hunger and disease, on top of the 3.8 million who perished in the civil war.