DR Congo probes vote-linked killings

Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo pledged on Friday to investigate a report that security forces have killed at least 24 people.

Kinshasa: Authorities in the Democratic
Republic of Congo pledged on Friday to investigate a report that
security forces have killed at least 24 people since President
Joseph Kabila`s contested re-election.

Justice Minister Emmanuel Luzolo Bambi told news agency that his
office would work with Human Rights Watch to try to document
each case, and that he had already spoken with prosecutors.

"If the allegations are verified, the justice department
will take action," he said.

HRW late yesterday released a report stating security
forces had killed at least 24 people and "arbitrarily"
arrested dozens more in DR Congo since Kabila`s disputed
victory was announced December 9.

All but four died in Kinshasa between then and December
14. Two more were killed in eastern Nord Kivu province, and
two in central Kasai Occidental.

Human Rights Watch said it also documented an attack
where local youths in the capital threw rocks at a priest, who
later died from his injuries.

Since the election commission issued results showing
Kabila had won the November 28 presidential vote, "security
forces have been firing on small crowds, apparently trying to
prevent protests against the result," said Anneke Van
Woudenberg, senior Africa researcher at HRW.

"These bloody tactics further undermine the electoral
process and leave the impression that the government will do
whatever it takes to stay in power," she said.

The US-based human rights watchdog said after
interviewing 86 victims and witnesses it had received dozens
of reports of other killings and attacks by security forces
which "it is seeking to confirm."

Kabila`s victory with 49 per cent of the vote was upheld
even after international observers criticised electoral
conditions, citing problems in the vote count and the loss of
huge numbers of ballots.

The election commission said late yesterday it was
suspending compilation of certain results in the legislative
elections, held in tandem with the presidentials, following
requests from political parties.

"So as to guarantee the transparency and credibility" of
the legislative polls, operations in all local compilation
centres "are suspended, pending the arrival of international
supervision and technical support teams," the body said.

Opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, given 32 per cent
of the presidential vote, contends he won the poll but was
denied victory by massive fraud.

He issued thousands of leaflets yesterday calling on
people to attend his own "swearing-in" ceremony taking place
three days after Kabila took office.

HRW said in its statement that "police and other security
forces appear to be covering up the scale of the killings by
quickly removing the bodies." It singled out the police and
the Kabila`s bodyguard, the Republican Guard, for blame.