DR Congo election: Joseph Kabila ahead of Tshisekedi

Bags of ballots are unloaded by electoral workers at the Kinshasa fair grounds on November 30, 2011 before being counted
Image caption The ballot papers are being transported across vast distances before results can be announced

President Joseph Kabila is leading Democratic Republic of Congo's election with 46% of the vote, results show.

With more than two-thirds of votes counted, his closest challenger, Etienne Tshisekedi, trails on 36%, the election commission says.

Truckloads of riot police are patrolling the main cities in case of violence, with full results due on Tuesday, amid claims of fraud.

Some 3,000 people fled the capital, Kinshasa, at the weekend.

Last Monday's polls were the second since the 1998-2003 war officially ended, following the loss of some four million lives. Armed groups continue to operate in eastern parts of this vast country, which is two-thirds the size of Western Europe.

The BBC's Thomas Hubert in Kinshasa says Mr Tshisekedi's supporters insist that he has won and are unlikely to accept defeat in polls marred by allegations of rigging, including pre-marked ballots.

The constitutional mandate of Mr Kabila, 40, to rule ends on Tuesday and the opposition said it would not recognise his authority thereafter, our reporter says.

Congolese abroad protest

However, the head of the election commission said that Tuesday's deadline to announce full results might not be met.

"First of all we're going to make sure that all the results sheets have arrived and that we have all the information. If not, we won't be able to give you more than a partial report," said Daniel Ngoy Mulunda.

A senior official close to Mr Kabila has warned that the army could be deployed if the "situation becomes too chaotic for the police".

"We cannot let chaos prevail," Kikaya Bin Karubi, DR Congo's ambassador to the UK is quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

Police fired tear gas at opposition supporters in the capital on Monday, and gunfire rang out in a city in West Kasai province, both seen as opposition strongholds, after the government shut down a television and radio broadcaster, Reuters news agency reports.

There was more violence on Tuesday morning outside Mr Tshisekedi's home in Kinshasa and the headquarters of his Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party, our reporter says.

Mr Tshisekedi's supporters are protesting in central London, to demand that he be declared the winner.

They staged similar demonstrations in South Africa, the main regional power, and Belgium, the former colonial power, on Monday.

The protesters tried to storm the DR Congo embassy in Pretoria, forcing police to fire tear gas, the AFP news agency reports.

The protesters accused South Africa's President Jacob Zuma of helping to organise fraudulent elections in DR Congo and said he should stay out of DR Congo's affairs.

In Brussels, police fired water cannons to disperse protesters.

On Thursday, the UDPS declared Mr Tshisekedi the winner and called for arrangements to be made for a transfer of power.

Mr Tshisekedi, 78, campaigned for democracy under former ruler Mobutu Sese Seko but this is the first time he has contested elections.

He boycotted the 2006 election, claiming it had been rigged in advance.

Several thousand residents of Kinshasa crossed the River Congo to neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville at the weekend as fear grew that violence could escalate, correspondents say.

Many foreign nationals have also fled the country, they say.

The International Crisis Group has put DR Congo on its "conflict risk alert" list.

Last week, four other opposition candidates - including Vital Kamerhe, a former ally of Mr Kabila - called for the polls to be annulled, alleging they had been marred by widespread rigging and violence.

Observers from the African Union (AU), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and three other groups have said the polls had been successful and called on all sides to show restraint.

The government warned that it would not tolerate further conflict.

Guards loyal to Mr Kabila shot opposition protesters, killing 14, ahead of the election, Human Rights Watch said - claims dismissed by the government.

HRW said at least four more people were killed during the poll.

The election was marred by widespread logistical problems, as well as the violence, and polling in some areas was extended until Thursday to allow voting material to be delivered.

The biggest country in sub-Saharan Africa has hardly any road or rail links between its major cities, so the UN peacekeeping mission distributed some election equipment by helicopter.

The 2006 election was marred by weeks of street battles led by supporters of the losing candidate, Jean-Pierre Bemba.

He is now on trial at the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes committed in Central African Republic.

Inside DR Congo
size map
The Democratic Republic of Congo covers 2,344,858 square km of land in the centre of Africa, making it the 12th largest country in the world.
size map
Eastern DR Congo is awash with a variety of different rebel groups – some have come from neighbouring countries, while others have formed as self-defence groups. Many are taking advantage of the lack of a strong state to seize control of the area's mineral riches.
mineral wealth map
DR Congo has abundant mineral wealth. It has more than 70% of the world's coltan, used to make vital components of mobile phones, 30% of the planet's diamond reserves and vast deposits of cobalt, copper and bauxite. This wealth however has attracted looters and fuelled the country's civil war.
transport map
Despite the country's size, transport infrastructure is very poor. Of 153,497km of roads, only 2,794km are paved. There are around 4,000 km of railways but much is narrow-gauge track and in poor condition. Waterways are vital to transport goods but journeys can take months to complete. Overcrowded boats frequently capsize, while DR Congo has more plane crashes than any other country.
population map
With an estimated population of 71 million, DR Congo is the fourth most populous country in Africa. Some 35% of the population live in cities and the capital Kinshasa is by far the largest, with more than 8 million inhabitants. DR Congo has around 200 ethnic identities with the majority of people belonging to the Kongo, Luba and Mongo groups.
demographic map
Given its size and resources DR Congo should be a prosperous country, but years of war, corruption and economic mismanagement have left it desperately poor. In 2011 it lags far behind in many key development indicators, with average life expectancy increasing by only 2 years since 1980, after a period when it actually fell during the mid 1990s.

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