Wednesday, November 15, 2006

DRC News Reports: Kabila Wins Election Runoff With Solid Majority; Vote Declared Free and Fair

Joseph Kabila wins election runoff in Congo

Associated Press
Wed. Nov. 15 2006 4:44 PM ET

KINSHASA, Congo — Incumbent President Joseph Kabila was declared the winner Wednesday of Congo's tense runoff election, defeating his rival and ex-rebel leader, Jean-Pierre Bemba, in the country's first multiparty contest in more than four decades.

Kabila won with about 58 percent of the vote, compared with nearly 42 percent for Bemba, said Apollinaire Malu Malu, chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission.

Bemba has disputed results from the Oct. 29 vote for days and his forces fought police and troops loyal to Kabila on Saturday for several hours in the capital, leaving three civilians and one soldier dead. Earlier Wednesday, Bemba's fighters refused a request by U.N. peacekeepers to return to military barracks in the city.

Bemba's home was silent, as was most of this capital of nearly 7 million people, where he enjoys massive support and Kabila is largely disliked. A few dozen people in some downtown Kinshasa bars and made celebratory toasts, and car horns honked in victory in an elite suburb.

The 35-year-old Kabila looked set for victory since earlier this week, when results showed him with an insurmountable lead. No official winner had been declared by the electoral commission until Wednesday night, when Malu Malu made the announcement on state television.

The U.N. mission deployed tanks onto Kinshasa's streets Wednesday, part of stepped-up security across Kinshasa that has also included a greater presence of European peacekeepers and police.

The electoral commission had said it would look into Bemba's complaints alleging fraud, but Malu Malu made no reference to the investigations.

Congo may one day look back at the election as the difficult birth of an era of peace, democracy and prosperity after decades of colonial rule, dictatorship and war that devastated what should be among the richest countries in Africa, if not the world. But for now, it is far from clear that supporters of the political rivals won't resort to violence.

"The big hope is that people want the elections, they want peace, they want to get on with their lives in circumstances that promise a better future," said William Lacy Swing, the U.N. secretary-general's special representative to the Congo.

"The vast majority of people are tired of war, tired of violence, they want peace and they are not easily going to be involved in acts that will disrupt order," he said. "I honestly believe that after these elections, one can truly say that this country is another country."

International observers have said voting was largely free and fair, and the election commission has rejected accusations its count has been skewed by fraud.

When results of the first presidential round were announced in August, the two sides battled it out on the streets of Kinshasa for three days, killing 23 people.

White U.N. personnel carriers with mounted submachine guns and truckloads of troops remained overnight in front of Bemba's house on the capital's main June 30 Boulevard. U.N. military spokesman Lt. Col. Stephane Lescoffit said about 100 troops had been stationed there.

On Tuesday, Bemba's spokesman said, a Congolese Armed Forces officer led a convoy of 16 trucks to the house and demanded that 300 members of Bemba's bodyguard accompany them to be confined to barracks on the outskirts of town. They refused and the trucks left, said the spokesman, Moise Musangana.

Army spokesman Col. Leo-Richard Kasonga said he couldn't immediately comment on the demand that Bemba's forces be confined to barracks, which appeared to have been made without consulting the U.N. peacekeepers.

Musangana said Bemba had about 1,500 armed fighters at his home, while the presidential guard numbered up to 15,000.

On Tuesday, Bemba's supporters challenged the vote count and threatened to tear up agreements to use dialogue and not violence to resolve disputes.

International observers have reported some problems in the largely peaceful elections, but largely agree that the exercise was free and fair -- a tremendous achievement given the size and population of the country, its primitive infrastructure, lack of institutions, and the fragility of a peace that still has not taken hold in the east.

The Central African nation is the size of the United States east of the Mississippi, but has only 480 kilometres of paved roads, posing huge logistical problems for the U.N. mission that spent nearly US$500 million on the vote, the biggest election the world body had ever helped organize.

"There have been issues but, technically speaking, I really believe it was free and fair," said Carmina Sanchis-Ruescas of the Washington-based IFES, which aids elections around the world. "There always some errors and mistakes, but not to the extent that we could claim that it has not been free and fair."

The names of some voters didn't make it onto the lists of eligible voters because of technical glitches, while up to 1.5 million poll workers and observers were allowed to vote outside their home districts, raising concerns.

The country's top Roman Catholic prelate, Cardinal Frederic Etsou, accused the Electoral Commission of publishing false results.

But the biggest national observer mission, set up by the Catholic Church, found no evidence the count was rigged.

"We saw some irregularities, but we cannot speak of fraud," said Henri Nuyiya of the Coordination for a Successful Transition, which mustered 50,000 election volunteers. "If there were a few people who voted in places where they were not registered, this would not have affected the results of the elections."

Both candidates had representatives at polling stations who were given copies of the results on the day of balloting, said Colin Stewart of the Atlanta-based Carter Center, which also sent observers.

That measure, he said, "constitutes a very strong measure of transparency and virtually eliminates any possibility of significant fraud in the compilation process."

DR. Congo's Kabila Wins Run-off Election

Bemba coalition reject results, protests

From Constance Ikokwu in Kinshasa, DR Congo, 11.16.2006

The Independent Electoral Commission IEC of the Democratic Republic of Congo last night declered that incumbent President Joseph Kabila recorded 58.5 per cent of the run off elections while the Bambe coalition led by Jean Pierre Bemba recorded 41.95 percent.

According to provisional results announced last night by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Kabila led his opponents but the commission is yet to officially announce a winner. pending the ratification by the countrys Supreme court.

Strikingly, the atmosphere in the capital city, Kinshasa is tension soaked folowing reports that the coalition was ammassing weapons of war since they have rejected the results which favoured Kabila.

Earlier in the afternoon, Bemba’s party headquarters on Juin 30 Boulevard in Gombe was calm, with a limited number of soldiers at the premises.

When THISDAY visited again by 4pm, security had been tightened, with more United Nations (UN) Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) drafted to the premises. A party official who gave this reporter an appointment was nowhere to be found.

When THISDAY called his mobile phone, he explained that the Police had ordered party members to leave the premises for security purposes.

Three APCs were stationed in front of the premises while another one was stationed across the road. The situation at Kabila’s party headquarters at Batatela in Gombe is the opposite. Few soldiers were seen.

The President of the IEC, Rev Father Abbot Appolinaire Malu
Malu Muholongo has been holding meetings with the opposing camps. Details of the meeting were not known as at press time, but THISDAY gathered that two leading candidates have been asked to calm their supporters when the results are announced.

Bemba’s political coalition had yesterday claimed he won the election with more than 50 per cent of the vote, accusing the IEC of fraud. But Malu Malu who is a Catholic Priest denied the allegations saying that “elections need precision and this precision is a guarantee of transparency. Those who want to proclaim themselves are just impostors. They fool no-one but themselves."

The rebel leader’s coalition has warned that "the Union for the Nation will not accept an electoral hold-up that aims to steal victory from the Congolese people,"

Kinshasa is a Bemba stronghold. The rebel leader garnered 70 per cent of the votes in the capital city alone. He also has strong support in the Western part of the country which is Lingala-speaking while the incumbent present is popular in the Swahili-speaking Eastern part.

Final results are expected to be published on Sunday, after the electoral commission must have examined complaints from the two camps. If elected and sworn into office, it appears that Kabila who is only 35 years of age will be the youngest democratically elected president in the world.

Congo's Kabila urges calm in poll results dispute

15 nov. 06 - 16.05h

KINSHASA, Nov 15 (Reuters) - President Joseph Kabila urged Congolese to remain calm on Wednesday after former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba rejected partial election results showing Kabila with a commanding lead in a presidential run-off.

Kabila said the police and army remained loyal to him, suggesting security forces would not tolerate further trouble following clashes with Bemba's supporters in August and last weekend.

"I would say to the population of our country, to the Congolese people ... that they should remain calm and wait for the publication of official results by the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI)," Kabila told foreign journalists at a briefing.

"There are institutions in place. In case of any escalation, there is the justice system, of course. And there are the security forces, which are there, are they not, to protect the population and their belongings, protect the institutions and protect the CEI, and protect everybody," Kabila said.

The historic Oct. 29 vote was the culmination of a peace process lasting several years since Congo's 1998-2003 war in which Bemba led a rebel faction before joining a power-sharing government.

'No cheating' in Congo election

BBC News
15 nov. 06 - 12.42h

Claims of election fraud by supporters of ex-rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba in the Democratic Republic of Congo are unsubstantiated, say officials.

Electoral commission head Apollinaire Malu Malu called for candidates to respect election rules after Mr Bemba's coalition rejected partial results.

President Joseph Kabila is poised for victory with 90% of the votes counted.

Mr Kabila has 60%, while Mr Bemba, who has been vice-president since a peace deal, has 40%, official results show.

The Bemba camp said their candidate had received more than 50% of the vote and that victory "was being stolen from the Congolese people".

The results are to be officially announced by the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) by Sunday at the latest.

Correspondents say tension over the results is high in the capital, Kinshasa, after violence at the weekend in which four people were killed.


Mr Malu Malu said that accusations of fraud had to be backed up with proof.

Elections need precision and this precision is a guarantee of transparency. Those who want to proclaim themselves are just impostors," he said.

"They fool no-one but themselves."

Bemba's coalition said in a statement, that if the CEI had cheated, they would not feel bound to comply with an earlier promise to respect the outcome of the election.

"The Union for the Nation will not accept an electoral hold-up that aims to steal victory from the Congolese people," the coalition said in a statement

The vote has been the first following DR Congo's five-year conflict.

The BBC's Mark Doyle says the challenge to the results could be highly dangerous, especially in Kinshasa, which is a Bemba stronghold and where just a few thousand United Nations peacekeepers are deployed.

The UN is backed by a special European military mission but the numbers of European troops may not be enough to contain any widespread unrest if that occurs, he says.

Regional divide

Following Saturday's violence, the police arrested 337 homeless people, including 87 children, the government says, blaming them for starting the trouble.

Eye-witnesses say that security forces loyal to the two candidates exchanged gun- and mortar-fire.

United Nations observers say the election is the most significant in Africa since Nelson Mandela was elected as South Africa's president in 1994.

The first round of elections showed a regional divide, with Mr Kabila gaining a landslide in the Swahili-speaking east, while Mr Bemba got most support in the west, where Lingala is the common language.

The world's largest peacekeeping force - 17,000-strong - is in DR Congo, tasked with ensuring security.

At least 23 people were killed in gun battles between security forces loyal to the two men in Kinshasa after the announcement of first round results.

Mr Kabila won 45% of the vote, while Mr Bemba got 20%.

International observers generally praised the vote as being well-run, despite some disruptions in the north-east of the country.

ICC Deputy Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda: We will investigate other people and other crimes in DR Congo

Biliaminou Alao & Oscar Mercado / MONUC
15 nov. 06 - 17.00h

ICC Deputy Prosecutor, Ms. Fatou Bensouda, emphasizes in an interview with MONUC the importance of the trial against Thomas Lubanga for enlisting and conscripting children, and expresses confidence that the Pre-Trial will be brought to the next level.


Why has the Prosecutor charged Thomas Lubanga only with war crimes, namely enlisting and conscripting children under the age of fifteen years and using them to participate actively in hostilities?

I want to start by talking about how important this crime is. This crime of enlisting and conscripting children in my opinion is very important and for a long time it has not received the recognition that it deserves.

This is the first time that the ICC is bringing charges based solely on this particular type of crime. And we hope that by doing so we will build international consensus to emphasize that it should no go unpunished. Not anymore. This is the primary focus.

In addition to that, at the time that we sought the arrest of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo from the DRC, the office of the prosecutor had sufficient evidence only to prove this particular charge. And because Thomas Lubanga Dyilo was under arrest and his release was imminent, we had to act with urgency; that is why we brought this charge alone. However, this does not mean that even after this initial case, we will not bring other charges for other crimes against Lubanga.

If none of the charges brought against Lubanga were retained by the Court, will the Prosecutor bring up other charges?

We continue to investigate in the DRC, not only against Lubanga, but also against other people. I don’t want to speculate about the prosecutor not having these charges confirmed before the pre-trial's end because we are very confident of the evidence that we have and which we are now in the process of presenting to the Pre-Trial Chamber.

If charges brought up against Lubanga were retained, how long will the trial last and what sentence is he likely to face?

If the charges are confirmed, the Pre-Trial Chamber has up to 60 days to confirm the charges after the close of the hearing. Once the charges are confirmed, the presidency will constitute a Trial Chamber for the trial to start. We hope that this will be sometime in early 2007. But I don’t know yet because it is not for the office of the prosecutor to give the time that the trial will start.

How long the trial will take will of course depend on so many other issues. The prosecutor has his evidence, the defense I’m sure also will have their own evidence and depending on all the participants, even the victims, for instance, depending on all of those procedures, that is what will determine the time. It is merely, as I said, for the judges to decide.

The sentence is also not for the office of the prosecutor, it’s for the judges to determine; but according to the statute I can just tell that it can be any number of years to life imprisonment. But as I said, it is for the judges to decide.

Are there other Congolese people likely to be tried by the International Criminal Court?

The policy adopted by the office of the prosecutor with regard to our investigation in the DRC is that we are proceeding in sequence. We have started with the case of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, but it is not the last. We are carrying on with our investigations and we will investigate other people, and other crimes during the course of our investigation in the situation in DRC.

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