The security forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been busy since incumbent President Joseph Kabila was declared winner of disputed elections on December 9, 2011. Members of the Republican Guard (a presidential security detail of 12,000 soldiers), the police, and other security forces have fired on crowds of protesters killing at least 24 people and probably many more, according to Human Rights Watch. The police and armed forces have also been actively patrolling the streets in opposition strongholds in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, arresting pro-democracy organizers. Heavy tanks and artillery blocked routes leading to Kinshasa’s Martyrs Stadium where an opposition rally was planned for December 23. Leading opposition candidate Etienne Tshisekedi remains under house arrest.
In short, despite allegations of widespread electoral fraud, including the “losing” of 1.6 million ballots, the Congolese security forces have sided with the regime in power. The pattern echoes one seen in a number of other African countries in recent years, including Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Rwanda, among others. In Côte d’Ivoire, the military was instrumental in keeping Laurent Gbagbo in place during his 5-month standoff following presidential elections that he was deemed to have lost. By the time Gbagbo was arrested, (and his forces largely routed), more than 3,000 people were estimated to have been killed.