Painting by Cheri Samba

Lokuta eyaka na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier mpe ekomi. Lies come up in the elevator; the truth takes the stairs but gets here eventually. - Koffi Olomide

Ésthetique eboma vélo. Aesthetics will kill a bicycle. - Felix Wazekwa

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Pre-electoral Violence in Kinshasa

There were violent scenes in Kinshasa on Monday and Tuesday. The chain of events was apparently triggered by Etienne Tshisekedi's official registration as candidate for presidential elections. On the way back from the registration office, his supporters allegedly clashed with members of the PPRD, Kabila's core party, outside of their headquarters around 5pm.

To avenge that attack (although some UDPS members are claiming it was staged to discredit them), which damaged several cars and windows at the PPRD building, several dozen Kabila supporters attacked and set fire to the RLTV television station, which is owned by Tshisekedi supporter Roger Lumbala, around 2 o'clock at night. Around the same time, youth beset the UDPS headquarters in Limete, close to Tshisekedi's residence, breaking glass and lighting fires.
Riot police in Kinshasa as Tshisekedi registered. Source: Radio Okapi

When UDPS followers awoke to find their offices damaged, they began to protest in the street. Police in the neighborhood shot tear gas canisters and, according to some, live ammunition at the protesters, killing a 30-year-old man. Other witnesses said that the person who had used live ammunition was probably a "pomba," a member of a street gang, who were standing behind the police line.

The UDPS has accused Kabila of armed a militia out of such street gangs in Kinshasa. Jacquemain Shabani, the UDPS spokesperson, also accused the government of having instigated the attack through their security services.

Tensions are beginning to mount. Just in the past two weeks, at least five journalists and human rights activists have been threatened anonymously in Kinshasa: Donat Mbaya, Tshivis Tshivuadi, Eugénie Ntumba, Jonas Tshombela, and Charles Mushizi.

It will be interesting to see whether the UDPS can keep mobilizing tens of thousands of people - as it did for Tshisekedi's return last December and his rally in April - as violence mounts. The last several rallies, in particular the protest at the CENI offices, saw only several hundred demonstrators.

Two rallies have been announced in Kinshasa for tomorrow (Thursday) - one by the UDPS and one by PPRD. While both sides have called on their followers to eschew violence, tempers are high and the vitriol is mounting in their public statements

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