Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Bloody Congo

By Michael J.W. Stickings

With a new constitution that enshrines democratic rule, DR Congo held its first free elections in 40 years last July. Alas, they were elctions tainted by credible allegations of fraud. And now the country is awash in violence between government and rebel forces:

Up to 600 people may have been killed in last week's clashes in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital, Kinshasa, European Union diplomats say.

The authorities have said about 60 people died in violence between the army and armed guards loyal to opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba.

The EU diplomats expressed concern at the government's "premature" use of force which they say led to fighting.

President Joseph Kabila said his troops put down an armed rebellion.

That's always the excuse, isn't it? Not just for violence but for "arrest and intimidation" of the opposition.

The U.S. has rightly "condemned the violence. State Department spokesman Tom Casey: "[It] represents a set-back in the progress the Congolese people expect and deserve after last year's historic elections."

Historic? Perhaps. Legitimate? Perhaps not. Democracy is never perfect, but now Kabila's "democratic" government is doing what so many do where democracy is but a front for strongman rule: consolidation of power, suppression of opposition and dissent.

Far be it from me to take sides in Congolese politics, but I think we all know what's going on here.

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