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Congo Opposition Calls for Day of Mourning

VOA News - February 5, 2007

United Nations peacekeepers patrol near a burnt vehicle belonging to UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) 01 Feb 2007, in Matadi
United Nations peacekeepers patrol near a burnt vehicle belonging to UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) 01 Feb 2007, in Matadi
Opposition leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo have called for a national day of mourning to protest violent clashes last week. Many protesters demonstrating against election-fraud allegations were killed when security forces fired on rioting crowds in several villages. Kari Barber reports from our West and Central Africa bureau in Dakar with additional reporting by Eddie Isango in Kinshasa.

Opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was defeated by Joseph Kabila in the presidential race last year, called for a day of mourning and a so-called dead-city protest.

But many people still went to work, while others started their day a little later than usual.

Bemba says, officials who used violence to quell the demonstrations over perceived fraud in the recent gubernatorial elections should be held accountable for the nearly 90 deaths.

Governor of the capital, Kinshasa, Liwanga Mata, said in a speech that he would not recognize the day of mourning, because he sees it as a defiant act of Bemba's opposition party.

Mata says the constitution allows people to protest if they want, but Bemba does not have the right to authorize a national day of mourning.

A group allied with Bemba is reported to have led the demonstrations last week, in which government buildings were burned and several police and soldiers were killed.

Supporters of President Joseph Kabila's ruling party won nine of the 11 gubernatorial races. Bemba's allies won one seat. The local elections are part of a peace process that began in 2002 following several years of war.

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