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Battling it out in Kinshasa

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©  MONUC/Myiram Asmani/IRIN

Second round contenders Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba and President Joseph Kabila

NAIROBI, 22 Aug 2006 (IRIN) - Fighting in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, may have broken out because the results of the 30 July election, announced on Sunday, took supporters of President Joseph Kabila by surprise, analysts said on Tuesday.

Troops loyal to Kabila and his closest contender, Jean-Pierre Bemba, have been fighting since Sunday. Heavy weapons were used and dead bodies can be seen on the streets.

Kabila secured less than 20 percent of the vote in Kinshasa, against Bemba's 50 percent in the city. In Kinshasa, "Kabila and his forces may now have a siege mentality", Jean Marie Gasana, senior analyst for Africa at the NGO Forum on Early Warning Response, said on Tuesday.

"I think the problem could be that everyone on Kabila's side thought he would win the first round outright," he said. "Now they don't have a plan 'B'."

Kabila, who needed at least 50 percent of the national vote to avoid a run-off, won 45 percent, according to preliminary results issued by the DRC's Independent Electoral Commission. Bemba came in second with 20 percent, higher than most people expected.

"His popularity took a sudden rise during the campaign," said Gasana.

Kabila and his supporters were not psychologically prepared for the second round, Philip Biyoya, a professor of science and constitutional law at the Protestant University of Congo, said. "They now fear they are heading towards a dead end," he said.

On Monday, Kabila's presidential guard attacked Bemba's two homes and party headquarters, as well as burning his private helicopter, according to Bemba's spokesman Moise Musangana. Kabila's political adviser, Marcellin Tshisanbo, said Bemba's militia had provoked the presidential guard.

A war of words has accompanied the fighting. Bemba's radio station went off air on Tuesday. Tshisanbo said Bemba's television station had been broadcasting images that incited hatred. Two radio stations supporting Kabila were shut down last Thursday by the DRC's independent media authority.

The United Nations helped to organise the elections, the DRC's first multiparty poll in more than 40 years. On Tuesday, the head of the UN mission in the DRC, William Swing, said both Kabila and Bemba had promised to stop their troops fighting.

The fighting began in Kinshasa on Sunday shortly before the Electoral Commission issued preliminary election results, as Bemba was on his way to his television station to deliver a statement. It has continued, with UN and Congolese armoured vehicles patrolling the streets, and an attack on Monday afternoon by members of Kabila's presidential guard on Bemba's home while he was meeting ambassadors.

The office of the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has issued a statement urging "all Congolese parties and the candidates to accept and respect the results of the elections, in the spirit of peace and reconciliation, so that these remain an example for the African continent and the rest of the world".

DRC: Frontrunners need alliances for 2nd round of presidential polls

dh/cb/mw/oss


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