As the Democratic Republic of Congo counted votes Tuesday after millions of people went to the polls for its second democratic election, demonstrations spread from Johannesburg to Western cities, where Congolese protesters said the election at home was fraudulent. Several of the protests ended in clashes with police.
The violence began in South Africa, where police shot rubber bullets on Monday at a group of protesters gathered outside the African National Congress's Luthuli House in Johannesburg, and arrested five who tried to storm the embassy in Pretoria. By Tuesday, the protests had spread to London, where hundreds of demonstrators clashed with police outside the residence of Prime Minister David Cameron, and to Toronto, where more than 150 protesters gathered at the U.S. Consulate were surrounded by police.
Protesters carried signs that read “Free Congo,” “Respect the will of Congolese people” and “Kabila out!”
Joseph Kabila, the sitting president who is a former rebel commander, currently has an almost-unbeatable lead of 46 percent. His elite guard is accused of gunning down at least 14 opposition supporters, according to the AP.
Human Rights Watch estimates that election violence has already left at least 18 people dead and more than 100 wounded, with much of the violence perpetrated by troops loyal to Kabila.
Al-Jazeera reported that the Congolese government said it would use the army in the event of any “poll chaos.”
At the International Criminal Court, prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo issued a warning to Kabila, using former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo — who appeared this week for crimes committed by his forces after he lost last year’s election — as an example.
“Leaders from all sides must understand this: My Office is watching the situation in the DRC very closely,” Moreno-Ocampo said. “Electoral violence is no longer a ticket to power, I assure you. It is a ticket to The Hague.”
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