Campaign tension for second round presidential poll raises spectre of earlier scenes like this on 23 July when thousands of party supporters clashed with riot police in Kinshasa, capial of DRC.
KINSHASA, 17 Oct 2006 (IRIN) - Three days into presidential election campaigns, tensions remain high in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as supporters of candidates Joseph Kabila and Jean-Pierre Bemba burn effigies and stone vehicles involved in the campaigns.
"This tension is deliberately maintained by those who have no hope of winning the elections, who already know they have lost," said Lambert Mende, the rapporteur of Kabila's electoral platform, known as Alliance pour la marjoritÚ presidentielle (Alliance for the Presidential Majority).
However, Kinshasa, the capital, was calm on Wednesday. Reports of clashes between Kabila's and Bemba's supporters were reported in Kasai Occidental Province.
Since the start of the campaigns on Saturday, acts of political intolerance have increased countrywide. Campaign supporters have burnt effigies and stoned a convoy of cars during a procession in Mbuji Mayi, the capital of the eastern Kasai Province, as well as in western Kasai and other places.
Kabila, the incumbent president, and Bemba, one of the country's four vice-presidents, face off in the second round of elections scheduled for 29 October. Kabila secured the first round held on 30 July, garnering 40.8 percent of the vote but not enough for an outright victory. Bemba was second with 20 percent of the vote.
Interference in the media
"We have observed the intent to intimidate and discourage Bemba's supporters from campaigning for him. We see this as political will to muzzle the press supportive of Bemba," Moise Musangana, Bemba's spokesman, said. "The worst has to be avoided during the candidates' campaigns."
Kabila's supporters accuse Bemba's supporters of physically attacking Kabila's principal private secretary, Leonard She Okitundu, in London last Wednesday as he went to give a television interview.
Tensions mounted on 10 October with Kabila's nomination of two senior military officers to the post of interior minister and mayor of Kinshasa, respectively.
Different media outlets in support of the candidates have also urged violence. The High Media Authority, the country's media regulatory body, has forbidden the broadcast of clips, songs and other campaign images used by television channels close to Kabila - Digital TV and CMB - as well as those close to Bemba's CCTV and Radio LibertÚ.
"We cannot allow these campaign adverts containing xenophobic messages and slander," Modeste Mutinga, president of the High Media Authority, said.
"We have set a code of conduct that each camp has to follow during the whole electoral process so that we can have a calm second round that will be accepted by all," Dieudonne Mirimo, the rapporteur for the Independent Electoral Commission, said.
The two camps have prepared rallies and demonstrations as well as visits by their candidates. The candidates are also scheduled to hold a televised debate on 26 October at the end of the campaign.
"We accept the debate but on the condition that it is not done in violence, either verbally or physically," said Vital Kamerhe, the secretary-general for Kabila's People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD).
Tensions increased on the eve of the electoral campaign between the two camps, with both sides accusing each other of perpetrating violence.
Bemba's television station was attacked in Lubumbashi, the mining capital of Katanga, which is loyal to Kabila. Bemba's spokesperson, Moise Musangana, accused an unidentified armed commando group of destroying the transmitter on Thursday.
The NGO Journaliste en Danger has urged the United Nations Mission in the DRC, MONUC, to secure the locations of radio-TV transmitters across the country to guarantee access to information for all and to avoid an escalation of violence or direct attacks on the media.