Clashes at DR Congo protest as partial poll results show lead for incumbent leaderWed, 27 Dec 2023 17:52:55 GMT

Partial results from DR Congo’s election released Wednesday indicated a strong lead for incumbent President Felix Tshisekedi, but came as the opposition rejected the poll and staged a protest that turned violent.In the morning, dozens of riot police in the capital Kinshasa prevented a banned opposition-organised demonstration against the electoral process from taking place. Some protesters turned up anyway — but the demonstration quickly devolved into violence as protesters hurled stones at officers.Leading opposition politicians in impoverished but mineral-rich Democratic Republic of Congo called for the protest after rejecting last week’s vote, which was marred by severe delays and bureaucratic disarray.Congolese interior minister Peter Kazadi said Tuesday that the protest would be banned because it “aims to harm the electoral process”. But the opposition nevertheless urged supporters to gather near the national assembly and march to the headquarters of the country’s electoral commission. Riot police deployed to the area and fired tear gas at supporters of opposition politician Martin Fayulu, who gathered at his party’s headquarters.The supporters hurled rocks at the police, who responded in kind with rocks in addition to tear gas.Fayulu later said that at least 11 people had been injured. Kinshasa’s chief of police, General Blaise Kilimbalimba, said two officers had been injured. He added that there had been minors among the protesters — and that the protest organisers would be summoned for questioning. Some 44 million people were registered to vote on December 20 in elections to choose a president, national and regional lawmakers and municipal councillors. But the electoral commission struggled to get voting materials to polling booths on time in the huge and fragile country — roughly the size of continental western Europe — leaving some people unable to cast ballots. – ‘Gigantic organised mess’ -Voting was officially extended by a day and even lasted until Christmas Day in some remote areas.  The opposition claimed there was “total chaos” and denounced irregularities. The archbishop of Kinshasa likewise described the election as a “gigantic organised mess”. Election-related tensions are common in the DRC, which has a long history of authoritarian rule and violent government overthrow.Government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said on social media that the opposition must await the publication of provisional results and address complaints about the electoral process to the Constitutional Court.Partial results released by the electoral commission on Wednesday evening showed incumbent President Felix Tshisekedi well ahead, with about 79 percent of the some 8.8 million ballots counted so far. The 60-year-old, who came to office in January 2019 after the country’s first peaceful transfer of power, is running for a second five-year term.Moise Katumbi, a former governor of the south-east Katanga region, has about 15 percent of the votes counted so far. He is followed Fayulu, a former oil executive who claims he was the rightful winner of the 2018 election, with about 3 percent.