DR Congo election: Questions hang over Kabila's victory

A riot policeman faces opposition protesters through a could of tear gas in Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa on 10 December
Image caption The capital voted for the opposition by two-to-one and has seen unrest since Friday's announcement

Gunshots were ringing out in the streets around the central prison in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, on Saturday as groups of three policemen armed with assault rifles went door-to-door in apparent search operations after a night of violence and looting.

Burnt-out tyres, broken glass and concrete blocks littered the neighbourhood's only tarmac road, and an armoured truck was parked outside the prison itself.

Similar trucks have been patrolling the streets of the capital for most of this week, with their turret-mounted machine guns hidden under protective bags. This time, the weapon was gleaming in the sun.

"There have been killings and looting, young men have died and a bakery was ransacked," angry residents shouted.

When asked who had committed those crimes, they answered in a chorus: "Soldiers, policemen!"

An officer heading one of the police squads waved the BBC car through and played down the violence. "We're only using plastic bullets," he said.

'Under control'

The head of the national police, Charles Bisengimana, has acknowledged that his force had killed at least four people in Kinshasa since the presidential result was announced on Friday afternoon - three looters and one woman hit by a stray bullet.

The UN-sponsored station Radio Okapi put the death toll at six in the capital.

"We only use non-lethal equipment to disperse protest marches, but policemen who protect buildings or people had to use weapons," Gen Bisengimana said.

He also warned that armed police would be used against "armed groups linked to the opposition" after one policeman was shot dead on Thursday and another one injured by gunfire on Saturday.

The situation was under control, he added.

Doubts and disappointment

More reports of violence came from the central city of Mbuji-Mayi, where official tallies show that 97% of voters supported the opposition candidate Etienne Tshisekedi.

Image caption Mr Tshisekedi's supporters took to the streets to show their anger at alleged fraud

The president of the local civil society committee said one man had died there and members of the security forces had arrested numerous people or stolen their belongings.

Another civil society leader, Willy Wabo, was murdered overnight in North Kivu province, in the east of the country. A local journalist said Mr Wabo had vigorously denounced irregularities in the electoral process.

The Kinshasa voters who have been burning tyres and breaking down electricity poles on Saturday are also putting the election result in doubt.

"We are really disappointed. We voted for Tshisekedi, now we are told it's Kabila. That's why we are angry," a local woman said.

Election observers are now scrutinising the detailed results posted by the electoral commission on its website following the announcement of President Kabila's re-election on Friday evening.

Several electoral observation missions, including the Carter Centre, are expected to issue reports in the coming days on the credibility of the paper trail from each of the 63,000 polling stations to the final tally.

Already, some trends from the raw data are striking: The number of polling stations where the results were discarded by the electoral commission because of electoral violence or logistical problems is consistently higher in areas where the opposition vote was high.

For example, nearly one in five polling stations in Kinshasa was not included in the election result, compared to less than 1% in Katanga. Two-thirds of Kinshasa voters chose Mr Tshisekedi, while 90% of those in Katanga voted for Mr Kabila.

In Mr Kabila's home village of Manono, more voters cast their ballots than were registered on the list, resulting in a turnout rate of 100.14%.

According to official figures, only one person in that entire constituency voted for Mr Tshisekedi.