CONGO: Post-election clampdown on opposition
BRAZZAVILLE , 9 October 2009 (IRIN) - Authorities in the Republic of Congo have restricted the movements of several opposition politicians, who claim President Denis Sassou-Nguesso’s July re-election was won through fraud.
Electoral disputes in Congo have triggered violence in the past, most notably when a two-year civil war broke out in 1997 after a row between Sassou-Nguesso and former president Pascal Lissouba. Lissouba, who now lives in exile, was barred from taking on Sassou-Nguesso in a 2002 election, which led to a resumption of violence in the Pool region.
Among those affected by the latest measures is former prime minister Ange Edouard Poungui, a senior member of Lissouba’s PanAfrican Union for Social Democracy (UPADS), whom security officials reportedly prevented from flying to France on three occasions.
“Myself and UPADS Secretary-General Pascal Tsaty Mabiala wanted to travel to [the western Congo town of] Dolisie for a party meeting but we were turned back at the airport,” said Poungui, referring to an incident in early September.
“Many of our activities have been banned,” he added, listing several meetings that security officials prevented from taking place after the July election.
Many opposition figures – some of whom boycotted the July poll - say they have not been allowed to leave the capital, Brazzaville, since mid-August.
While human rights organizations have condemned the measures as deliberate and unconstitutional attacks on civil liberties, officials close to the government have defended them.
Although Communications Minister Bienvenu Okiemy was unavailable for comment, his predecessor, Alain Akoulat Atipault, told the pro-Sassou-Nguesso Depeches de Brazzaville newspaper: “The ban on Poungui and other opposition leaders leaving the country follows the opening of an inquiry by the state prosecutor into the opposition march of 15 July” - the day Sassou-Nguesso’s victory was announced.
“This march, which competent authorities had not authorized, threatened public order,” he added. The opposition parties insist the demonstration against alleged vote-rigging and intimidation had been authorized.
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