DR Congo election protest turns violent, 1 dead


At least one person died in clashes in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital a doctor said, after police used tear gas to disperse opposition supporters protesting against alleged irregularities in voter registration.

The clashes involving several hundred protesters were the first signs of tension in the capital, Kinshasa, as the vast central African country gears up for its second poll since the 1998-2003 war in which some five million people died.

President Joseph Kabila is favourite to be re-elected in the November vote, but he is becoming increasingly unpopular because of his failure to tackle corruption and bring peace to the east, Reuters reports.

Congo’s vast mineral wealth is attracting growing investor interest, but most Congolese live in abject poverty.

A car was burned and several people were arrested after leaders of the UDPS, one of the main opposition parties, were stopped from delivering a memorandum to the electoral commission listing their concerns, a Reuters witness said.

Kabamba Mbuebue, a doctor in a Kinshasa hospital, said the hospital had received one body after the clashes.
“One body is being kept in the morgue. He died during the UDPS protest. We must wait for the autopsy to know the cause of death,” he told Reuters.

UDPS supporters said it was a protester who died after inhaling tear gas, but there was no confirmation of this.

The party is led by Etienne Tshisekedi, who analysts say could pose the biggest threat to Kabila in the polls. The delegation, which was led by party secretary-general Jacquemain Shabani Lukoo, was later allowed into the building but riot police continued to tear gas their supporters.
“We deplore the way we were refused entry when we just wanted to deliver our memorandum,” Shabani said.

The Congo police chief, General Charles Bisengimana, told Reuters the demonstrators had not received authorisation for the protest and police had intervened to restore public order.
“They had no right to set fire to a taxi or to throw Molotov cocktails at police vehicles,” he added, saying one policeman was injured in the clashes.

A photo journalist for a local newspaper said he was beaten and his camera broken during the fracas.

The elections are seen as crucial for bringing stability to a country that has suffered decades of conflict and dictatorship, but analysts worry about their credibility.

More than three quarters of Congo’s 31 million voters are registered but opposition parties distrust the electoral commission and its head Daniel Ngoy Mulunda, a Kabila ally.

Electoral commission member Laurent Ndaye said they would look into the complaints.

Congo’s 2006 vote was praised as transparent, although it was marred by violence in which hundreds of people were killed.