Calm Returns to Democratic Republic of Congo
(VOA) — Residents of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic
Republic of Congo, are relieved but bitter, as calm has returned after
fighting between government forces and the guard of opposition leader and
former vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba. Dozens are reported dead, and
the death toll is expected to rise as more information becomes available.
Okala, the deputy spokesman for the U.N.’s military mission
in Congo, known by the French abbreviation MONUC,
said he went outside for the first
time, after more than 48-hours of fighting. "The situation
in the Congolese capital is calm. I went to the downtown. I can say that
there are a lot of damages but social and economic activity are resuming," he
MONUC forces spent the past few days protecting and evacuating
civilians and attempting to mediate between the government
issued a warrant for Bemba’s arrest, accusing him of
treason and calling the clashes a rebellion. He has taken refuge
in the South African Embassy in Kinshasa.
Eddie Issango says many of Bemba’s guard have fled across the
river to neighboring Congo-Brazzaville or have turned themselves
and their weapons into the U.N.
Okala says the government must once again look for ways to
find solutions for the many challenges facing the DRC after
decades of brutal war. "They have to secure the country.
They have to reform security services. They have to promote
social justice, promote women. So there is no time to waste," he
Nourredine Kassa, head of Kinshasa-based Leadership Training
Initiative, said there remains a lot of anger over the events
of the past few days. "There is a sense of relief, I guess,
but beyond this sense of relief what I feel is a sense of extreme
bitterness. Bitterness at how futile this chapter of this country’s
political life has been. Futile fighting when there were a
thousand other options to settle this dispute than using violence," he
the violence of the past days, all too familiar to Congolese
who survived a civil war that left more than four million dead,
Kassa says a sense of optimism remains. Mr Kassa added, "They
are still hopeful because they know that they have voted and
they know that their vote counts. It will never be like before."
the DRC held democratic elections that were widely hailed as
an important step toward peace for the beleaguered nation.
President Joseph Kabila won the vote, but the election was
marred by violent clashes.
looks he forward to a time of peace in the DRC, when the National
Assembly will become a place for healthy – and peaceful discussion
– by members of the government and a robust opposition.