20 January 2012
South African police arrested 150 supporters of opposing Congolese political factions over public violence during the DR Congo’s chaotic electoral process, a spokesman said Friday.
A special task force arrested the suspects, all from the Democratic Republic of Congo, at their homes in Johannesburg after a series of clashes between expatriate supporters of Congolese President Joseph Kabila and opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, said police spokesman Dennis Adriao.
“We followed up and arrested 150 people for public violence after investigations,” he told AFP.
The arrests were made in the suburbs of Yeoville, Jeppe and Hillbrow, where thousands of Congolese and other African immigrants have flocked after travelling to the continent’s economic powerhouse in search of work.
The area was the scene of aggressive campaigning in the run-up to the November 28 presidential elections in the DR Congo. Tshisekedi even visited Johannesburg ahead of the poll.
“As cases were reported a task team of detectives was formed,” said Adriao.
Police studied footage of incidents to identify the ringleaders and held an identity parade on Friday, he said.
But a Congolese activist told AFP the arrests were politically motivated.
“The government of the DRC wants to silence Congolese that were campaigning for democracy in the DRC here in South Africa,” said Jean-Pierre Lukamba, the deputy chairman of the African Diaspora Forum.
Adriao denied the accusation.
“People were arrested from both sides. Who a person supports is irrelevant to us,” he said.
The group will appear in court on Monday. More arrests might be made over the weekend, said Adriao.
Incumbent Kabila was declared the winner of the election with almost 49 percent of the vote to just over 32 percent for Tshisekedi, but the poll was marred by fraud allegations.
In the wake of the vote, often violent protests erupted among the Congolese diaspora in Belgium, Britain, Canada, France and South Africa. – ANP/AFP
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