Monday, August 21, 2006

DRC: Post electoral gunfights (Update 1) | UN removes trapped diplomats in Congo:

"Battles between forces loyal to President Joseph Kabila and those of his main campaign rival raged for second day Monday, and U.N. peacekeepers safely evacuated foreign diplomats who had been trapped inside the challenger's besieged home when gunfire broke out.

The fighting in the Central African nation came after election officials announced Sunday that President Joseph Kabila had failed to win an outright majority in Congo's first balloting in more than four decades and would face former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba in a second round in October.

U.N. spokesman Jean-Tobias Okala said the diplomats, including U.N. chief of mission William Swing, were being returned to the world body's offices in the capital, Kinshasa, after being evacuated from Bemba's compound by U.N. troops in armored personnel carriers.

"They're out and they're coming to U.N. headquarters. Everyone's safe," he said.

The foreign envoys were meeting with Bemba when fighting erupted outside his compound. Swing, the head of the world body's 17,500-troop peacekeeping mission, was inside, along with envoys from the United States, France, China and other countries.

It was not clear if the diplomats were ambassadors or lower-ranking officials. The U.S. Embassy had no comment and others were not immediately reachable for comment.

A U.N. official at its headquarters in New York, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the mission, said peacekeepers were there "to assist in an evacuation ... of VIPs from Bemba's compound."

In a bid to quell the violence, the army issued orders Monday for all soldiers in the Congolese capital to lay down their arms.

Army spokesman Col. Richard Leon Kasonga appeared on national television and issued orders barring all troops from carrying their weapons in public without a written exemption. He appealed for calm, saying, 'We're all members of the same army.'

Bemba's political party said Kabila's guards attacked the house, drawing return fire from Bemba's guards. Bemba was in his office when the fighting started, said his spokesman, Moise Musangana.

A senior military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of prohibitions on dealing with the media, confirmed that Kabila's special presidential guards were battling members of the postwar military drawn from Bemba's insurgent ranks. But the official said Bemba's guards provoked the battle.

Gunbattles in the nation as large as all of Western Europe already had killed at least two people, a grim backdrop for another round of campaigning."
Why does this have to happen to us? That is my question. I mean how desperate and pathetic must our leaders be (at sone level or another), to pull off a stunt like this, the day when we had finally proven to the face of the world, that we too could do the "democracy" thing, despite having part of te country only reachable by canoe? This is one of the saddest days in the History of Congo. When the people steps-up to the plate, the leaders act like buffoons. Sad, sad, sad...

I also, a bit of News from my favorite bloggers in Kinshasa:

Cedric's blog [Fr]
Kim's blog


Black River Eagle said...

This violence is deplorable and very difficult to understand until you realize who you are dealing with here. Whatever happens next is up in the air, but to have shooting breakout around a group of foreign diplomats and UN officials trapped in an official residence of a DRC government vice-President will have some serious consequences for the perpetrators.

One thing you should never forget: Millions and millions of your people (the Congolese) went to the polls in peace and made their choice for political leaders in a democratic process for the first time ever really (forget about the 1961 polls as they were most likely rigged). They held their heads up high with dignitiy and marched right into those 50,000+ polling stations distributed around the country and made their choices.

No one can take that away from your people, neither gun-toting idiots bent on destroying the democratic election process nor the various experts and pundits who are saying and writing to the effect "See, I told you so. They (the Congolese) are not ready for democracy and civilization."

One thing that is burned into my memory is this: These people have worked hard and suffered a long time in order to one day make their voices heard, and after 41 or 46 years that day came on July 30, 2006. I'll be damned if my country abandons them now in their time of need. As far as the UN and EUFOR-RDC is concerned, they had better get their dumb--ses on the move "tout de suite" (Fr) and help restore some law-and-order in the capital Kinshasa. Quick.

Lorraine said...

Hmmmm! Let's re-examine that statement again "forget about the 1961 polls as they were most likely rigged"...and have you been following the missing ballots, the fradulent votes, the burnt ballots, the 2006 elections (hey Malu, I won't even mention the voter registration problems)? I encourage you to go check out the latest NPR interview with Dr. Kashala...

Black River Eagle said...

What? Has Dr. Kashala done another NPR interview since the July 30th elections? What is the URL?

O.K., so these elections were not perfect but "rigged", definately not! It was more like a mugging where the best efforts of honest political candidates and voters under the supervision of MONUC and the international community were challenged and roughed-up by the supporters of 3 or 4 presidential candidates.

It is unfortunate that people were killed in the unrest leading up to these elections and after the polls, but less people died on the streets of Kinshasa than died in the political violence in Lomé, Togo when Faure tried to muscle his way into office after his father's untimely death.

Donate to The Salon

Help us continue to do this important work of promoting freedom of expression about the Congo.

Explore The Salon