KINSHASA — DR Congo on Thursday pledged to probe alleged police killings following President Joseph Kabila's reelection amid fears of more unrest as his rival pressed on with a separate inauguration.
The Democratic Republic of Congo's Justice Minister Emmanuel Luzolo Bambi told AFP his office would work with Human Rights Watch to try to document each case in the report, and that he had already spoken with prosecutors.
"If the allegations are verified, the justice department will take action," he said.
HRW late Wednesday released a report stating security forces had killed at least 24 people and "arbitrarily" arrested dozens more in DR Congo since Kabila's disputed victory was announced December 9.
The possibility of additional bloodshed hangs over the huge country as opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi prepares an "inauguration" ceremony for himself in Kinshasa.
Tshisekedi, 79, is challenging the outcome of the vote that the country's supreme court and the election commission said Kabila had won.
His party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDSP), printed some 500,000 leaflets asking residents to come to the ceremony for the "president-elect" at Martyrs Stadium on Friday at 0900 GMT.
UDSP official Jacquemin Shabani said Tshisekedi would proceed, despite the risk of a security force crackdown.
"If Kabila wants to send tanks in against the people, that's his responsibility," Shabani said.
Kabila's presidential guard has already positioned tanks outside the stadium and throughout the capital, with police regularly moving to break up opposition group gatherings.
Tshisekedi, credited with 32 percent of the presidential vote -- compared to Kabila's 49 percent -- contends he won the poll but was denied victory by massive fraud.
According to Human Rights Watch, all but four of those in its report died in Kinshasa between December 9 and 14. Two more were killed in eastern Nord Kivu province, and two in central Kasai Occidental.
HRW said it also documented an attack where youths in the capital threw rocks at a priest, who later died from his injuries.
Since the election commission said Kabila had won the November 28 presidential vote, "security forces have been firing on small crowds, apparently trying to prevent protests against the result," HRW senior Africa researcher Anneke Van Woudenberg said.
"These bloody tactics further undermine the electoral process and leave the impression that the government will do whatever it takes to stay in power," she said.
The US-based human rights watchdog said after interviewing 86 victims and witnesses it had received dozens of unconfirmed reports of other killings and attacks by security forces.
Kabila's victory was upheld even after international observers decried electoral conditions, citing problems in the vote count and the loss of huge numbers of ballots.
The election commission said late Wednesday it was suspending compilation of certain results in the legislative elections, held in tandem with the presidentials, following requests from political parties.
"So as to guarantee the transparency and credibility" of the legislative polls, operations in all local compilation centres "are suspended, pending the arrival of international supervision and technical support teams," the body said.
HRW said in its statement that "police and other security forces appear to be covering up the scale of the killings by quickly removing the bodies."
It singled out the police and the Kabila's presidential guard for blame.
"The UN and Congo's international partners should urgently demand that the government rein in its security forces."
London-based rights group Amnesty International earlier this week denounced what it said was a wave of political arrests, notably of opposition activists, since the elections.
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