* Congo opposition says will begin protest next week
* Opposition has called for international mediation
* Alain Juppe say situation is "explosive"
(Adds French foreign minister)
By Jonny Hogg
KINSHASA, Dec 11 Democratic Republic of
Congo's opposition will call for peaceful demonstrations across
the country early next week to protest against Joseph Kabila's
disputed election victory, a situation France's foreign minister
Alain Juppe described on Sunday as explosive.
Tensions are high in the vast minerals-rich central African
state after a Nov. 28 poll, its second post-war vote, marred by
deadly violence, disorganisation and allegations of fraud. Both
sides have claimed victory.
Juppe said on France's TV5 and RFI radio that it was hard to
know exactly what had happened during Congo's elections, and
Paris had tried to pass messages to both camps to stop violence
and begin dialogue, but until now nobody had listened.
"The situation is explosive. I am totally aware of this
because the temptation to turn to violence is extremely strong
so we are trying to do everything to avoid it," Juppe said.
A spokesman for Etienne Tshisekedi, who came second
according to provisional results, but declared himself president
on Friday, said the veteran opposition leader was hopeful the
international community would mediate a solution to the crisis.
"We insist that the protests will be non-violent... The
population know this may be a long, long walk but they are ready
for it," Albert Moleka told Reuters.
Kinshasa, Congo's populous capital on the banks of the Congo
river was mostly quiet with reports of sporadic gunfire on
Sunday amid a security crackdown which has seen police and
military mobilised and the SMS message network suspended
Congo's police chief General Charles Bisengimana said at
least four prisoners were shot dead after an attempted breakout
from a Kinshasa jail early on Sunday, but gave no details of any
other casualties of post-election violence.
"It's calm, life is getting back to normal and people are
going about their business," Bisengimana said by telephone when
asked about the general security situation in the country.
The elections, only the second since the country emerged
from a vicious civil war in 2003, have come under growing
criticism for irregularities and alleged fraud.
The Carter Center, the U.S.-based watchdog, said in a report
on Saturday that the provisional results released by the
electoral commission (CENI) lacked credibility, joining a
growing number of voices to express concern over the elections.
A turnout of more than 100 percent in Kabila's home region
and the disappearance of results from more than 2,000 polling
stations in the largely opposition capital suggested "serious
irregularities," the rights group said in a statement.
"It is evident that multiple locations, notably several
Katanga province constituencies, reported impossibly high rates
of 99 to 100 percent voter turnout with all, or nearly all,
votes going to incumbent President Joseph Kabila," it said.
"These and other observations point to mismanagement of the
results process and compromise the integrity of the presidential
election," the statement said.
FEARS OF CONFLICT
Part funded by Western donors including Britain, the United
States and the European Union, the elections are seen as crucial
to re-enforcing stability in Congo. But there are fears that a
contested result could drag the country back into conflict.
Security forces and opposition supporters clashed across the
country on Friday and Saturday, with gunfire being reported in
several cities and at least one person killed.
In London on Saturday evening, police arrested 143 people
after a demonstration against Kabila's reelection, a day after
about 200 people were arrested in similar violent protests in
Brussels, capital of Congo's former colonial ruler Belgium.
Other observer groups have expressed concern about problems
in the run up to the polls, and the European Union is expected
to release a statement in the coming days.
The electoral commission, headed by an adviser to Kabila,
said it would launch an investigation into the irregularities.
CENI spokesman Mathieu Mpita said he was "very disturbed" by
some of the figures. The Supreme Court is expected to ratify the
results before Dec. 17.
The government has warned Tshisekedi that declaring himself
president is illegal and may spark further violence. Britain and
the African Union are among those who have called for calm.
Moleka said Western and African nations were expected to
become more involved in trying to end the standoff, and contacts
had already been made with some governments.
Kabila, who came to power in 2001 following the
assassination of his father, before winning elections in 2006,
has yet to speak following the results.
Tshisekedi had hoped to capitalise on growing frustrations
within the country over the government's failure to tackle
corruption or insecurity, particularly in the east of the
country, where rebel groups still roam.
(Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris; Writing by Bate
Felix; Editing by Rosalind Russell and Louise Ireland)