Thursday, August 24, 2006

UNEASY CALM AFTER KINSHASA TRUCE!

UN peacekeepers and European troops are patrolling the city. Police and peacekeepers are patrolling the streets of the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kinshasa, after a deal to end factional strife. Eight people died in gun battles that erupted on Sunday, after results from July's first round of voting emerged.

President Joseph Kabila fell short of 50% of the vote, prompting a run-off. His main rival for president, Jean-Pierre Bemba, gained about 20%. The two signed a deal on Tuesday to withdraw forces from the city centre.

Bodies of those killed in the violence remained strewn across the streets of Kinshasa as an uneasy calm returned to the capital on Wednesday morning , the BBC's Said Penda reports from the city. Several lifeless bodies were still visible in certain parts of Gombe, which saw the worst of the fighting earlier in the week.

Until midday, armed men loyal to Mr Bemba were at large in parts of Gombe that were still under their control, while police and soldiers loyal to Mr Kabila controlled other sectors. There were some incidents of looting, and occasional shots were heard in the city. Public transport was running again, but banks remained closed.

Earlier on Tuesday, more than 200 soldiers from several European countries flew into Kinshasa from neighbouring Gabon, to reinforce about 1,000 EU peacekeepers already in Congo.

DR CONGO RESULTS BY PROVINCE

NATIONALLY:
Joseph Kabila: 45%
Jean-Pierre Bemba: 20%
Antoine Gizenga: 13%
Nzanga Mobutu: 5%
Oscar Kashala: 4%
Turnout: 70%
Source: CEI

Fighting mars peaceful poll

The deal to end the violence was reached under pressure from the United Nations following three days of clashes.
Mr Kabila called for the withdrawal of government troops after meeting diplomats of the international committee overseeing the DR Congo's transition to democracy (CIAT).
Mr Bemba, a former rebel leader and a vice-president in the national unity government, also ordered his supporters withdraw to their original positions.
He retains his own personal security force but is now under UN protection.

A joint statement by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the UN Mission in the Congo (Monuc) and CIAT said the conflict must resolved through dialogue. "The solution to end the differences opposing President Kabila's militia and that of Vice President Jean-Pierra Bemba is political and not military," the statement said. Neither faction in DR Congo accepted responsibility for starting the recent fighting. "An investigation will be opened to determine what started the exchange of fire," a presidential spokesman told AFP news agency.

The fighting has prompted some residents to flee KinshasaMr Bemba's spokesman Germain Kabinga told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that the opposition leader was still committed to the run-off but that the UN should create a buffer zone between the two camps.
"We really want to go to the second round. We don't want to restart the war," he said. After the election results were declared, Mr Kabila appeared on state television, saying he had won a "great victory". Some of his rivals, including those from Mr Bemba's party, say there was widespread fraud in the elections.

The 30 July election was intended to be the first fully democratic poll to be held in the country since it gained independence in 1960. It follows the official end of a five-year conflict, which dragged in several other African countries and led to the death of more than 3m people. The results show a regional division in DR Congo, a country two-thirds the size of western Europe.
Mr Bemba won most votes in the west of the country, while Mr Kabila gained most support in the Swahili-speaking east.
BBC NEWS REPORT.

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