Gunfire in Congo after Kabila wins disputed poll

KINSHASA (Reuters) – Gunfire erupted in parts of Democratic Republic of Congo yesterday, with reports of police firing live ammunition and crowds ransacking shops, a day after election authorities declared President Joseph Kabila re-elected.

The US-based Carter Center observer mission said the results issued by Congo’s election commission “lack credibility” and pointed to uncounted ballots in opposition strongholds and “impossibly high” turnout in places where Kabila is favoured. Shooting rang out in some cities, including the capital Kinshasa, after Kabila’s main challenger, Etienne Tshisekedi, said he rejected the official results and declared himself the new leader of the vast central African state.

Tresor Nkuna, a resident of Kinshasa, an urban sprawl of 10 million people, said: “We haven’t been able to sleep because of the gunfire. We don’t know when it’ll stop, it’s very violent.”

Many other parts of Kinshasa were quiet with people staying indoors, witnesses said, but clashes between protesters and security forces were reported elsewhere in the country, with the United Nations reporting at least one dead. Protests also erupted in former colonial power Belgium.

Congo’s Nov 28 vote was its first locally-organised presidential contest since a 1998-2003 war that killed more than 5 million people, and was meant to move the country on a path to greater stability. But the poll was marked by violence, chaotic preparations and allegations of fraud. Concerns are mounting of a prolonged and violent dispute over the outcome, and diplomatic sources have said international mediation efforts may be needed to avert a crisis.

Congo’s election commission announced on Friday that Kabila took nearly 49 percent of the votes to Tshisekedi’s roughly 32 per cent, winning Kabila a new mandate. The results must now be ratified by the Supreme Court.

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