Kabila wins DR Congo vote, opponent declares self president
Violent protests erupted Friday in the DR Congo's capital after incumbent Joseph Kabila was named the election winner and rival Etienne Tshisekedi rejected the result, declaring himself president.
Gunshots rang out in Kinshasa's eastern neighbourhood of Limete, where Tshisekedi has his party headquarters, and in the central neighbourhood of Bandale, where protesters set tyres on fire and threw stones at a heavy contingent of armed police who fired tear gas to disperse them.
There were also reports of looting and at least one person was shot and wounded near Bandale.
The unrest was limited to specific areas, but calls poured in from the international community for restraint in the restive central African country, where analysts had warned the November 28 elections risked unleashing new violence.
Kabila, who has been in power since 2001, secured 49 percent of the vote while Tshisekedi got 32.3 percent, according to provisional results announced by the election commission after a marathon 11-day wait.
"I consider this (result) declaration an outright provocation to our people and I reject it in full. As a result, I consider myself from this day on as the elected president," Tshisekedi told AFP.
"I call on the international community, which has relentlessly encouraged me to guarantee a peaceful process, to not only find a solution to this problem but take all possible measures so that the blood of the Congolese people is not spilled again."
After unrest broke out, Tshisekedi made an additional appeal for "the people to stay calm and peaceful."
The result hands Kabila another five-year term after constitutional changes in January scrapped two-round elections for a single-round system.
The supreme court has until December 17 to hear election disputes, review the provisional results and declare the definitive winner.
But Tshisekedi said he had no intention of going to the court, which Kabila expanded from seven to 27 judges at the start of the campaign.
"That court is Mr Kabila's private institution," Tshisekedi told TV station France 24.
"We can't do (the judges) the honour of appealing to them. That would confer on them a certain legitimacy."
The European Union, the US, Britain, France and former colonial power Belgium all appealed for calm, urging the country's politicians and security forces to refrain from violence.
After the results were read, victory cheers from Kabila supporters sounded in Kinshasa's posh Gombe neighbourhood, where many ministries and embassies are located.
A caravan of honking cars and trucks loaded with celebrating supporters soon filled the streets.
But elsewhere the situation was volatile.
Several police trucks carrying about 20 officers each were dispatched to disperse some 30 protesters in Bandale, where several vehicles had been set on fire.
In Kintambo neighbourhood, an AFP photographer was threatened by police who forced open the door of a shop.
The army has some 20,000 soldiers on standby in Kinshasa. Thousands of people had fled across the Congo river to the neighbouring capital of Brazzaville before the result announcement, fearing unrest.
In the southeastern city of Lubumbashi, which on voting day was rocked by deadly rebel attacks on a polling station and an election convoy, the city centre was heavily patrolled by police and presidential guards, but there were no immediate signs of unrest.
The election campaign had been marred by bloodshed that Human Rights Watch said left at least 18 civilians dead, most of them shot by government forces.
Opposition parties said repeated delays in the election commission's announcement of the results, originally due Tuesday, had raised suspicion it was trying to rig the count.
Observers have criticised the commission for a lack of transparency, though it sought to answer some of their concerns Friday by releasing full tallies for all 64,000 polling stations.
Several demonstrations among the Congolese diaspora had turned violent in recent days. A tense protest broke out Friday in Brussels, where police surrounded some 200 Tshisekedi supporters and detained 66, said the Belga news agency.
Parliamentary polls were also held on November 28 and provisional results are expected in mid-January. Officials said 58.8 percent of the country's 32 million voters cast ballots.
© 2011 AFP