Police in the Democratic Republic of Congo have today blocked access to the house of opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, and dispersed his supporters with teargas in the ongoing dispute over the country’s elections. The Limete area around Tshisekedi’s house is completely closed with his party UDPS claiming he is under virtual house arrest. Journalists were also prevented from reaching him with the police claiming they were ‘protecting’ them from the effects of the teargas.
Self-proclaimed ‘president’ Tshisekedi has been involved in a stand off with the incumbent, Joseph Kabila, after what was widely acknowledged to be widespread fraud in the polling. Electoral equipment failed to be delivered on time, protesters set fire to polling booths and unknown civilians fired at queues of voters in Lubumbashi, Katanga, killing 5 and injuring others. Ballot stuffing was witnessed, names disappeared off the electoral roles and militias attempted to intimidate voters.
After results were delayed by the electoral commission CENI, Joseph Kabila was declared the winner. The following days were marred by violence on the streets of Kinshasa and a rapid and heavy response by police who were later accused by Human Rights Watch of killing at least 24 people. Joseph Kabila was sworn in as president in a ceremony that was only attended by a single head of state, Robert Mugabe. While foreign ambassadors who didn’t attend faced unspecified comebacks according to the BBC. The following Friday Tsheskedi claimed he would have his own inauguration in the same location, the Stadium of Martyrs in Kinshasa. This move was blocked by police and Tshisekedi finally held his ‘ceremony‘ in the garden of his Limete house.
US electoral observers from the Carter Centre produced a report stating that the voting lacked credibility. However, they stopped short of declaring Tshiesekedi a winner declaring: “the assessment does not propose that the final order of candidates is necessarily different than announced by CENI, only that the results process is not credible.”
Alongside the presidential elections voting continued for parliamentary polls to choose the composition of the regional assemblies and senate. Now these too face allegations of fraud and mismanagement leading the electoral commission CENI to postpone the announcement of the results. CENI boss Jacques Ndjoli claimed the timing was irrelevant saying: “We mustn’t make an issue of the dates”. With increasing tensions reported around the DR Congo it remains to be seen what will be the outcome not just of the elections, but the continuing viability of Joseph Kabila’s presidency.