A main opposition candidate in Congo accused police of using live bullets to break up a protest Wednesday in the capital, as demonstrators demanded a re-do of last week’s presidential election.
Holding up a bullet, Martin Fayulu told The Associated Press that it landed near him while he was barricaded inside his headquarters during a standoff with police. His claim could not be verified.
Police said no live bullets were used, only tear gas, and that they were restoring order. AP journalists saw police physically assaulting some of the protesters.
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Fayulu is one of five opposition candidates who called the protest.
Some rights groups and international observers also have questioned the vote and alleged it was extended illegally. Many polling stations were late in starting, and some didn’t open at all. Some lacked materials, and many voter cards were illegible as the ink had smudged.
In some parts of Congo, people were still voting five days after the election.
“I feel bad this is not a country anymore,” Fayulu said, adding that Congolese will not accept it if President Felix Tshisekedi is declared the winner of another term. If there is no revote, the demonstrations will continue, Fayulu said.
As of Tuesday evening, Tshisekedi had nearly 79% of the vote, opposition leader and businessman Moise Katumbi had about 14% and Fayulu had about 4% of some 6 million counted votes. The final results are expected before the new year.
Tshisekedi has spent much of his time in office trying to gain legitimacy after a disputed 2018 election, where some observers said Fayulu was the rightful winner. Some 44 million people — almost half the population — had been expected to vote in this year’s contest.
The electoral observation mission of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo and the Church of Christ in Congo said more than 27% of voting stations didn’t open and there were 152 reports of violence, confrontations or brawls. That’s based on a sampling of 1,185 observer reports.
At least 100 demonstrators gathered around Fayulu’s headquarters on Wednesday throwing rocks and burning tires. Some barricaded themselves inside as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets. Some officers stormed the headquarters.
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“We don’t agree with these elections that just happened. We the people want peace in the country, that’s why we are asking that the elections be credible, transparent and peaceful,” said one protester, Christian Lampa.
The demonstrators hoped to march to the election commission, but the government on Tuesday banned the protest.
Fayulu’s assistant, Prince Epenge, showed a bloodstained floor in the headquarters and asserted that 11 people had been injured and taken to a hospital. That could not immediately be confirmed.
Rights groups warned that more protests could come.
“If (the election commission) decides to continue, it will plunge the country into total chaos, and the people will not let their rights be trampled underfoot by a group of power hungry individuals,” said Crispin Tshiya, an activist with local rights group LUCHA.