Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Church leaders warn of pending violence in Democratic Republic of Congo
(The Telegraph) Roman Catholic Church leaders said the Congo was "a high-speed train heading straight for a brick wall" as the prospect of fresh violence triggered by last week's disputed presidential polls increased.
Partial results released by the electoral commission appeared to show Joseph Kabila, the current president, leading Etienne Tshisekedi, his main challenger.
The announcement of results on Tuesday appears set to spark widespread – if short-lived – outbreaks of violence after opposition activists alleged that millions of additional ballots flown into the country were unneeded and vulnerable to tampering.
UN troops were deployed to seize pallets of voting papers flown in on cargo planes owned by Jacques Lemaire, a businessman who supports President Kabila, but shipments were left unattended.
Mr Tshisekedi and nine opposition candidates have alleged that Mr Kabila's camp rigged the vote by stuffing ballot boxes, fiddling voter lists and intimidating rivals' supporters.
The country's electoral commission was accused of cherry-picking preliminary results to give the impression of a strong performance by President Kabila.
"The current situation in the country brings to mind the image of a high-speed train heading straight for a brick wall, and we feel there is no one to stop it," said Bishop Djomo Nicolas, president of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo. "We ask all the players, all the leaders, to activate the brakes on the train. The Congolese people, our politicians and the electoral commission must stick absolutely to the truth as expressed in polls and posted at the polling stations."
Bishops in the Episcopal Conference, whose opinions carry great weight in Congo, said that proven fraud perpetrators should be "severely punished".
Army troops, police officers and United Nations peacekeepers were patrolling the streets of Kinshasa yesterday and text message services on all of Congo's mobile phone networks were cut.
International donors including Britain have faced accusations of "keeping silent" even as preparations were being taken for rising tensions in major cities.
Eric Joyce, a Labour MP who has campaigned on Congo, said it was now clear that President Kabila had in effect stolen the election.
“It does not look like he would have won without the fraud,” he said. “The irregularities are such that the donors should all say that it's to close too call. It is clear at the moment the scale of fraud is outstripping the margin of victory.
"It will be highly dangerous and irresponsible for the UK government and the international community to allow this election to be falsely declared in the names of fraudsters and crooks. I am concerned about reports of already filled out ballot papers being shipped into the country and will be raising this in the House of Commons."
Foreigners were advised to leave and communications networks were restricted. Despite the clear allegations of voting fraud, many of Congo's key foreign backers have failed to criticise the situation, putting them "on the wrong side of history", said Pascal Kambale, a veteran Congolese human rights lawyer.
"The vast majority of them are keeping silent, they are failing to ask questions of the electoral commission which need to be asked," said Mr Kambale, a director of the Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa. "They appear to be happy to see Kabila back again, even without legitimacy, even without a mandate, rather than showing that they are serious about what they preach in terms of democracy, good governance and accountable electoral processes."
Only Belgium and France pushed electoral commission representatives for explanations during a closed-door meeting with donors in Kinshasa on Saturday, sources familiar with its proceedings said.
Vital Kamerhe, an opposition candidate and former Kabila ally said: "The [Commission] must not steal the election from the people and the international community must now work to ensure that [it] and Kabila do not steal this election."
at 1:37 PM