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19th Jan 2020

Investigation

Congolese tensions spill onto streets of Brussels

  • Tensions are rising following last week's elections (Photo: United Nations Photo)

Post-electoral tensions in the Democratic Republic of Congo spilled onto the streets of Brussels on Monday (5 December), with angry supporters of opposition presidential candidate Etienne Tshisekedi damaging vehicles and briefly occupying the EU capital’s inner ring-road.

Roughly 300 supporters of the veteran Congolese politician gathered in Brussels’ Porte de Namur area during the afternoon, alarmed by recent events in their home country where presidential and legislative elections were held last week.

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A smaller group of roughly 80 militants was subsequently prevented from reaching Walloon Socialist Party headquarters on Boulevard de l’Empereur, reports the Belga news agency. They then returned to Porte de Namur where clashes broke out with the police.

A number of shop and car windows were smashed before smaller groups of protestors then moved on to the US and Congolese embassies.

The scuffles mirror far more serious tensions in the Democratic Republic of Congo where a standoff is developing between Tshisekedi and incumbent president Joseph Kabila.

Both men claim to have won the presidential election based on exit polls, with full preliminary results scheduled for this Tuesday.

In a break with protocol however, the country’s National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) has released partial results showing Kabila in the lead.

"The EU has an election observation team in place and the European Parliament will await its findings anxiously,” said Conservative MEP Charles Tannock in a statement on Monday.

"However, preliminary leaked reports from international observers on the ground are suggesting that the CENI ... might be manipulating the results in favour of one candidate.”

“If true this allegation of electoral fraud is very worrying.”

International diplomats are working overtime on the ground to prevent a large-scale outbreak of violence, with clashes between opposition supporters and security forces continuing on Monday.

At least 18 people have been killed in election-related violence so far, according to Human Rights Watch. And there are fears that greater bloodshed will accompany the seemly inevitable rejection by one side of the final results.

Several thousand Congolese citizens and expats living in the DRC have abandoned the country in recent days, fearing an uptick in the violence. Many have opted to take the boat across the Congo River to Brazzaville.

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