Bloomberg News

Congo TV Station Burned in Pre-Election Political Violence

September 06, 2011

(Updates with comments from analyst in fourth paragraph.)

Sept. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Offices and a television station were burnt down in Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, after protests before November presidential elections deteriorated into violence between political parties.

Armed men including supporters of President Joseph Kabila’s People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy attacked the headquarters of the opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress and a broadcaster supporting the party at about 2 a.m. today, Serge Mayamba, the UDPS’s chief of staff, said in a phone interview from Kinshasa. The incident followed an arson attack on the PPRD’s headquarters, according to an e-mailed statement by New Congolese Civil Society, a rights group.

Kabila has ruled the central African country since 2001, when he replaced his assassinated father. He won the first free and fair elections in four decades in 2006, triggering an investment boom focused mainly in the southern Copper Belt.

“This time the confrontation is much more serious” than clashes between protestors and the police in July, Marc-Andre Lagrange, a Congo analyst with the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, said in an interview. “We still have to see how capable the National Independent Electoral Commission is in bringing confidence back into the election process.”

UDPS President Etienne Tshisekedi, a veteran opposition leader, says that the ruling party is planning to rig the November presidential poll in the world’s top producer of cobalt, a metal used in rechargeable batteries.

Tshisekedi boycotted the 2006 election. The UDPS now wants access to the electoral commission’s server, which contains election data, and a list of the nation’s polling stations with their addresses to ensure the count is fair, Mayamba said. Police used tear gas and gunfire last week to break up protests campaigning for the access.

Kinshasa’s police chief, General Jean-Dieudonne Oleko, declined to comment on the matter when contacted on his mobile phone today. PPRD spokesman Emile Bongeli was not available for comment, an assistant who answered his mobile phone said.

--Editors: Alan Crawford, Karl Maier

To contact the reporter on this story: Franz Wild in Johannesburg at fwild@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net.


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