28.11.2011 - 28.11.2011 18 °C
Today is Election Day!
It’s raining heavily this morning and there have been rumours that rain could delay proceedings [floods, access, comms] so we are hoping it clears up for the afternoon……
Planned rallies on Saturday and Sunday were cancelled at the last minute but there was still time for UDPS, PPRD and PNC [Police] to clash in Masina [15k out of the city centre] on the road to the main international airport N’Djili. Etienne Tshisekedi arrived at the airport and was detained, preventing him from following his planned campaign route into the city centre. Vital Kamerhe was held under house arrest for the day. After a fair level of violence in Masina in the morning [10 dead, 40 injured say Radio Okapi] the Governor of Kinshasa cancelled all the rallies citing ‘security concerns’. The centre of town stayed calm.
At the Stade de Martyrs, one of the main staging grounds for political meetings over the campaign, large groups of street kids ‘chegues’ were taking sides, beating each other up, and throwing stones across the Boulevard Triomphale. The role of street kids in electioneering has been overlooked – there are huge groups of fairly hardened and violent young people [8-17 years] surviving on Kinshasa’s streets that have no political loyalty to one party or another but will wear a free t-shirt and plump up the crowd for the price of a Coke, and will take advantage of chaos and disorder to steal. A large number of the photos in the press this weekend were of street kids, not political party members [take a look at their feet – no shoes=street kid] and information from various Embassies asking us to avoid the area due to election violence suggests this particular aspect has been wildly misunderstood. I suppose that’s not new for the kids…….
[Added 29th November........]
Today is still Election Day!
After logistical difficulties and heavy rain in the morning yesterday voting has been extended into today. Due to the HUGE number of candidates to vote for [only 11 to choose from in the Presidentials but in the Parliamentaries there are 8 seats and 650 candidates in some areas] it takes an average of 26 minutes for each person to vote. That is if they can even find the polling stations, which are not all where they are supposed to be say EU observers.
Violence has been minimal and concentrated in specific areas. Lubumbashi is reporting 3 dead yesterday after a truck carrying voting materials was fired upon and police retaliated. West Kasai is reporting 3 polling stations burnt down by protestors and various areas of Equateur are reporting voting abnormalities.
Good news so far.....