Ban appeals for calm after DRCongo violence

November 27, 2011 7:44 am

, KINSHASA, Nov 27 – UN chief Ban ki-Moon on Sunday appealed for calm after deadly violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo marred the final day’s campaigning ahead of national elections.

But in the statement, issued from New York, Ban warned the government that it had “primary responsibility” for maintaining peace.

His appeal came after two people died and police clashed with the main opposition candidate and his entourage Saturday, the final day of campaigning before Monday’s elections.

“I call on all political leaders and the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to exercise restraint throughout the process to ensure that the elections are held in a peaceful and secure environment,” Ban said.

All sides needed to respect the constitution and election laws, he said.

But he added: “I stress the primary responsibility of the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo for maintaining a secure environment for the elections,” Ban said.

Two people were killed in campaign-linked violence Saturday and opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi was engaged in a stand-off with police when he tried to defy a ban on political rallies.

officers blocked 78-year-old Tshisekedi and his entourage for several hours at Kinshasa airport.

Police eventually pushed members of his 20-car entourage into their cars with shoves and baton blows and forced the motorcade to drive off.

Kinshasa police had called off the last campaign rallies Saturday after the campaign-related violence earlier in the day. Interior Minister Adolphe Lumanu said two people had died.

But apart from “a few incidents”, the election campaign had passed off peacefully across the country, he added.

Kinshasa governor Andre Kimbuta, an ally of President Joseph Kabila, also said the ban was for security reasons, accusing Tshisekedi supporters of carrying stones, machetes, knives and petrol bombs.

The violence closes a tense campaign marred by a series of street fights between rival supporters.

Amid the chaos of the final day of campaigning, the national election commission also cancelled for the second time a press conference on its efforts to get ballots delivered in a country two-thirds the size of western Europe and with a crumbling and limited road network.

The commission has been running behind schedule throughout the process, raising fears the vote could be delayed.

Ban, in Sunday’s statement, praised the “notable work” of the Independent National Electoral Commission, supported by the government, in getting the elections ready on time.

The elections are only second here since back-to-back wars from 1996 to 2003, the scars of which are still fresh.


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