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Christian Aid slams human rights abuses following contested elections in the Congo

December 23 2011 - Christian Aid is deeply concerned by brutal attacks on civilians by Congolese security forces in the wake of November 28 presidential elections, and incumbent President Kabila’s recent declaration of victory at the polls for a second five-year term.

'As part of an international election observation mission, Christian Aid observers witnessed acts of violence during the elections, which were flawed by numerous irregularities,' says Christian Aid's DRC country manager, Jacques Miaglia.

'Since then there has also been a marked increase in intimidation and violent repression by Congolese security forces, deployed in large numbers in the DRC capital Kinshasa and other provincial capitals in recent weeks.'

Security forces in Kinshasa used live rounds against demonstrators and rioters in opposition strongholds after the publication of provisional election results on 9 and 10 December. National and international media reported just six fatalities on the streets of Kinshasa, although reliable local sources indicate that the number of dead and wounded was far higher, and that Congolese security forces had quickly removed bodies. There has since been an alarming rise in insecurity, with many reports of extortion, kidnap, killings, arbitrary arrests and the prolonged detention of individuals in numerous prisons across the country.

As well as the national suspension of pro-opposition radio and TV stations, and the suppression of marches in Bukavu and Goma, the Congolese mobile text messaging service has been suspended by the government since 3 December. This has significantly hindered communication and information-sharing by the public during this increasingly tense and uncertain period.

The political opposition, led by Etienne Tshisekedi, has continued to reject the results published by CENI and accepted by the Supreme Court of Justice. Tshisekedi has proclaimed himself President, with his own 'swearing in' ceremony planned in Kinshasa today.

Christian Aid believes it is crucial that Congolese security forces avoid the use of repressive methods against civilians in their efforts to maintain order. The country's mobile text messaging service should also be urgently re-established, and election results should be handled in a transparent and non-violent way to help restore the credibility of the Congo's fledgling democratic process.

As one of the largest bilateral donors to the DRC, Christian Aid urges the UK to use all its influence, including through the European Union and United Nations, to closely monitor the situation and condemn abuses by the Congolese security forces. The UK should support the creation of an international mechanism for dialogue and mediation between the political parties to help resolve the ongoing dispute over the elections results and promote the peaceful management of the rest of the election process.

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If you would like further information please contact Jacques Miaglia on 07783 265497 or Emma Pomfret on 07554 024539. 24 hour press duty phone – 07850 242950  

Notes to Editors

1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in nearly 50 countries. We act where the need is greatest, regardless of religion, helping people build the lives they deserve.

2.  Christian Aid is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of 100 churches and church-related organisations that work together inhumanitarian assistance and development.  Further details at http://www.actalliance.org

3. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire 

4. For more information about the work of Christian Aid, visit www.christianaid.org.uk

5. Christian Aid was part of an international election observation mission in conjunction with the Congolese election transparency body AETA, and EurAc (the European network for Central Africa).