Pre-poll clashes erupt afresh in DR Congo's Lubumbashi - Daily Nation

Pre-poll clashes erupt afresh in DR Congo's Lubumbashi

Monday November 7 2011

Democratic Republic of Congo's President Joseph Kabila. Photo/FILE

Democratic Republic of Congo's President, Joseph Kabila. Photo/FILE 

By AFP

Fresh clashes erupted Monday in the Democratic Republic of Congo's city of Lubumbashi between government and opposition supporters, two days after similar violence left 15 wounded.

Supporters of the ruling Party for Reconstruction and Democracy and of the opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress, rivals in the November 28 general elections, were pelting each other with stones, an AFP reporter said.

The latest round of street fights between the two camps effectively locked down parts of the city, the DRC's second largest.

At least 15 people were wounded Saturday in similar clashes in the mining city, located some 1,000 miles southeast of the capital Kinshasa, between UPDS supporters and supporters of the Kabila-allied Unafec movement.

Calm had returned to the capital of the mineral-rich Katanga province on Sunday but tensions flared anew early Monday.

Shop windows were smashed, banks shuttered, one vehicle transported food goods was looted and pedestrians were mugged, an AFP correspondent said, reporting that most residents were holing themselves up in their homes.

Late last month, an alliance of 73 Congolese and international rights groups called for restraint in an open letter sent to all presidential contenders.

Aides to President Joseph Kabila, who has ruled the country since the assassination of his father Laurent in 2001, say he will tour all 11 of the provinces making up the vast country, which is four times the size of France.

There are 11 candidates for the presidency and nearly 19,000 candidates are in the running for some 500 parliamentary seats with 32 million people eligible to vote.

The UPDS had appealed for clam on Sunday, blaming Saturday's violence on "candidate Kabila's efforts to stoke unrest that will disrupt the electoral process."

In early September, a UPDS supporter was killed in clashes with police that erupted after his party leader Etienne Tshisekedi formalised his bid to challenge the 40-year-old Kabila.

Besides Tshisekedi, who served as prime minister of what was then Zaire under dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, candidates include former speaker Vital Kamerhe and senate chairman Leon Kengo.

The former dictator's son Joseph-Francois Nzanga Mobutu is also among those vying for the top job.

The US-based Carter Center, which has had observers in the country since August, said there were "serious threats to holding the election" and called for the DR Congo's election commission to take "urgent steps" so as to be credibly prepared for the ballot.

Human Rights Watch charged late last month that Unafec leader Gabriel Kyungu, who heads the Katanga provincial parliament, had repeatedly resorted to hate speech during the campaign.

Systemic corruption since independence from Belgium in 1960 and internal conflict since 1997 have slashed the nation's national output, increased external debt and led to the deaths of more than five million from violence, famine and disease.