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Tuesday, 28 May, 2002, 20:15 GMT 21:15 UK
Congo would-be MPs barred
The electoral commission in Congo Brazzaville has disqualified 12 parliamentary candidates for attempting to defraud and disrupt Sunday's vote.

Most disqualifications were said to favour the Congolese Labour Party led by President Denis Sassou Nguesso, but the finance minister, the president's brother and a presidential aide are among those barred.


I am deeply concerned at the deteriorating situation in the Republic of Congo

UN rights official Mary Robinson
Meanwhile, the United Nations has accused the Congolese government forces and the so-called "Ninja" militias of showing "blatant disregard" for the safety and rights of civilians in the fighting that broke out in March.

In a statement, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson urged the Republic of Congo authorities to take measures to guarantee the safety of civilians.

Re-run

In spite of the fighting, the election went ahead as planned on Sunday.

Incidents were reported in at least 12 constituencies in the capital, Brazzaville, the second city, Pointe-Noire, and in the eastern town of Gamboma.

A re-run of the election is expected to take place on Wednesday in those constituencies, as well as in eight of the 14 constituencies of the Pool region, where clashes between the "Ninja" rebels and government forces prevented the election from taking place on Sunday.

The three disqualified candidates did not immediately comment on the allegations against them.

President Denis Sassou-Nguesso
The disqualifications favour President Sassou's party

Finance Minister Mathias Dzon and Maurice Nguesso are accused of distributing false documents to allow their supporters to vote on Sunday, and of threatening officials, the electoral commission statement said.

Presidential aide Antoinette Olouo is accused of stuffing ballot boxes.

Displaced

The Congolese authorities have organised the presidential and parliamentary elections in an attempt to seal the fragile peace that followed the civil war of 1998 and 1999.

However, fighting broke out again two months ago, causing thousands to flee their homes.

Fighting with "Ninja" militias continued last weekend and the army announced that it had captured the "Ninja" headquarters of Vindza, in the Pool region.

Mary Robinson
The UN warns of a humanitarian disaster in Congo

At least 40,000 people have been displaced because of the clashes in the Pool, many of them currently out of the reach of aid workers.

"I am deeply concerned at the deteriorating situation in the Republic of Congo, in particular the Pool region," Mary Robinson said.

"I urge the warring parties to grant humanitarian agencies free and unconditional access to reach all those in need of assistance in the region," she added.

Appeal

The UN official said that the Congolese forces were reported to have launched helicopter attacks on villages in the Pool, killing and wounding an unknown number of civilians with "indiscriminate rocket and machine-gun fire".

"Dozens of women have allegedly been raped by men in uniform. A number of young men are reported to have been abducted from camps for internally-displaced persons," she said.

"I appeal to the Government of the Republic of Congo to take immediate steps to ensure the safety and integrity of the civilian population," Mary Robinson said.

Despite the fighting, a second round of voting is scheduled to take place on 23 June, along with municipal elections.

The official results from the areas where voting was completed on Sunday are expected to be released on Tuesday.

See also:

27 May 02 | Africa
16 May 02 | Africa
10 Apr 02 | Africa
02 Apr 02 | Africa
12 Mar 02 | Africa
10 Mar 02 | Africa
10 Mar 02 | Africa
22 Feb 02 | Africa
27 Mar 02 | Country profiles
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