Congo opposition to defy meeting ban ahead of vote

KINSHASA, Congo - Four bodies were recovered Sunday after clashes in Congo’s capital ahead of a critical national poll, a police official said Sunday, as the top opposition leader vowed to hold a public meeting in defiance of a ban imposed after the violence.

By (AP)

Published: Sun 27 Nov 2011, 8:21 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 12:26 AM

The European Union’s election observation mission on Sunday criticized police for their actions during Saturday’s clashes. Violence erupted at and near Kinshasa’s main airport as rival political supporters gathered there to see their candidate. Main opposition candidate Etienne Tshisekedi later arrived; the president did not pass through as expected.

At the airport, security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition into the burgeoning crowd.

Scuffles erupted on the road to the airport, and two dead bodies were seen on that road. Police inspector general Charles Bisengimana said four bodies were taken to a Kinshasa morgue on Sunday. It was not known if the two men seen on the road were among the four bodies at the morgue.

The EU mission said it “considers the police operation that took place last night at (Kinshasa’s) airport against the convoy of a presidential candidate and the arrests that were made as a serious breach of the right to campaign and the principle of equality that should prevail.”

Saturday’s violence prompted officials to ban political rallies and gatherings before Monday’s poll.

A defiant Tshisekedi said Sunday that he planned to hold an afternoon public meeting at Kinshasa’s Martyrs’ Stadium.

“No one can stop me from holding my meeting,” he said.

He also said more than 10 people were killed in Saturday’s violence and 68 were wounded. He said three of the dead were members of his office and were killed by police, but he did not give details on the other dead or wounded.

Bisengimana, the police inspector, said opposition supporters attacked supporters of the president during Saturday’s clashes. He also blamed opposition presidential candidate Etienne Tshisekedi for refusing to leave the airport where his supporters had gathered to greet him. Riot police manned the airport until late Saturday to prevent Tshisekedi and his convoy from leaving the scene.

The EU mission also said it “regrets that the last days of the electoral campaign were spoiled by many serious incidents and violent clashes which unfortunately cost human lives, especially in Kinshasa. The mission deplores the chaotic and improvised management of the last political meetings by many presidential candidates, by the Kinshasa authorities which restrained freedom of opinion, meetings and demonstrations.”

On Sunday, African Union chairman Jean Ping also expressed concerns about the poll.

In a press release issued Sunday, he said he “deplores the violence that took place in Kinshasa (Saturday), which resulted in loss of life, as well as the various other incidents that marred the election campaign.”

Human rights groups had expressed fears about an atmosphere of spiraling violence and hate speech ahead of the vote. The outcome of the vote is almost certain to keep President Joseph Kabila in power.

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