22 August 2006 United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, working to defuse tension in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has been in touch by telephone with the two leading candidates in the country’s landmark presidential elections, calling on them to meet and demanding an end to the violence, the world body said today.
The UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) reports that relative calm has now been restored in the capital Kinshasa after violent incidents yesterday between supporters of President Joseph Kabila and Vice–President Jean Pierre Bemba, a spokesman told reporters in New York.
A group of President Joseph Kabila’s Presidential Guards opened fire on Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba’s compound in Kinshasa yesterday afternoon, the spokesman said, adding that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, William Lacy Swing, and a dozen members of the Committee in Support of the Transition were meeting inside.
“As the shooting continued, Swing spoke on the telephone from Bemba’s residence with President Kabila and demanded that Kabila immediately bring the situation under control,” said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric. “The shooting, however, continued for another two hours.”
Mr. Dujarric added that the Secretary-General also phoned the two candidates to demand an immediate end to the violence, as well as the safe evacuation of the diplomats and civilian personnel trapped inside the residence.
“The Secretary-General urged both Kabila and Bemba to meet immediately to resolve the situation in a peaceful manner,” said Mr. Dujarric.
Some 150 UN peacekeepers in armoured personnel carriers brought Mr. Swing and the other dignitaries to safety, Mr. Dujarric said, adding that UN and European Union peacekeepers later deployed to Mr. Bemba’s residence and elsewhere in Kinshasa to ensure public order and safety.
Additional UN peacekeepers arrived in Kinshasa from other parts of the country this morning after looting broke out there and gangs of street youths ransacked businesses and the homes of real or perceived Kabila supporters, reported the UN mission in the DRC, known as MONUC. Additional European Union forces also arrived from Gabon to help restore order.
Later in the day, the Security Council backed Mr. Annan’s call for an end to the violence and for the two leading presidential candidates to meet, issuing a statement demanding that the Congolese political leadership “exercise restraint and immediately implement the ceasefire agreed between their forces.”
Meanwhile, Special Representative Swing continued his efforts to broker peaceful talks between the parties, as military chiefs from the MONUC, the European force, Vice-President Bemba’s security detail and the Congolese Army met separately to secure an agreement to stop the shooting.
“It is imperative that the confrontations cease immediately and that the two presidential candidates meet urgently, for the good of the democratic process and above all for the Congolese people, who have already suffered too much as a result of armed conflict,” said Mr. Swing this morning.
According to provisional results of last month’s historic elections, which were released on Sunday, Mr. Kabila won 45 per cent of the vote, while Mr. Bemba garnered 20 per cent, says MONUC. The two candidates are scheduled to face off in a second round on 29 October.