Congo: Sore Losers in Presidential Election



Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

November 22, 2006: Supporters of defeated presidential candidate Jean-Pierre Bemba rioted in Kinshasha. The rioters burned down the Congo Supreme Court building in the capital, while the court was deliberating Bemba's appeal. This action is not likely to help Bemba. UN peacekeepers, operating in armored vehicles, fired "warning shots" at the rioters. There was sniper fire at both firefighters and policemen. Bemba accused Kabila of conducting "systematic cheating" to win the election. However, South Africa's election observer team issued a report that said the election was fair and "remarkably transparent." Election observers are urging Bemba's supporters to accept the results.

In Congo's eastern Ituri province, elements of the Congolese Army (FARDC) fought with at least 50 members of the Ugandan LRA rebels. The firefight took place near Mount Zeu on the Congo-Uganda border. The Congo government has promised Uganda that it will act to stop rebel infiltration into Uganda. The fighting follows a report that two Ugandan soldiers were arrested in the Congo. Uganda conducts "aggressive" patrols along the Congo border - which sometimes means Ugandan recon patrols enter Congolese territory in order to monitor the LRA.

November 19, 2006: Congo's electoral commission declared President Joseph Kabila the winner of the run-off election. Kabila got 58 percent of the vote. Runner-up Jean-Pierre Bemba received 42 percent. Kabila faces several immediate problems. The first is working with UN and European peacekeepers to keep the inevitable post-election violence to a minimum. Kinshasha is a potential battleground and if the violence gets out of hand, the result could be civil war. If Kabila manages to keep Kinshasha from exploding, he then faces a series of long term problems. His own army is deeply split by tribal and political factions.

November 18, 2006: The Congo reported tribal fighting in Bandundu province (north of Kinshasha). Fighting broke out between Tende and Nunu tribesmen in and near the town of Bolobo. The fighting was described as "severe"; the likely cause was a land dispute. Medical teams reported eight people died of "arrow and machete wounds" and 27 people were wounded


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