Thousands of Congolese are leaving southern Brazzaville as fighting erupted early Monday morning between the military and suspected militia in the capital.
According to AFP reports, several people have fled the combat zone by late morning after witnessing the heavy gunfire which started in the districts of Mayanga and Makélékélé between 2:00 and 3:00 (0100 and 0200 GMT) and lasted almost continuously until about 6:00am.
We are concerned about the violent events that took place in the night in certain neighborhoods of Brazzaville.
Some witnesses in Kinsuka who spoke to AFP said the explosions were audible from Kinshasa, on the other bank of the Congo River, but the situation was calmed by 9:00am.
Meanwhile, France has expressed worry about the violence calling for “restraint” and the safety of its citizens.
“We are concerned about the violent events that took place in the night in certain neighborhoods of Brazzaville. Our embassy immediately addressed the safety instructions and calls for caution to our citizens who we are inviting to stay at home. The French school is closed today,” the spokesman of the Foreign Ministry, Romain Nadal, said calling for “restraint”.
Hundreds of heavily armed police and military units are currently patrolling the southern districts of the capital in 4×4 and armoured vehicles.
“They started the shooting at 2:00 am. Until 10:45 there were still shots. The soldiers entered several areas. They asked us to leave the area before it is too late. We do not know where to go, we are like immigrants, it’s shocking,” a 24-year-old student, Mercia, told AFP at Makélékélé.
Among those fleeing north from the capital is Jerome, aged 55, who said he left everything behind. “I could not bear the gunshots and heavy weapons, I’m traumatized.”
Neither the police spokesman nor the government has been reached but according to the state television, Tele Congo, the government is expected to make a statement on the violence “caused by the people contesting the elections.”
According to AFP journalists, long lines of people are moving towards the OAU Avenue which is the main road from the southern districts to the center. All cars are subjected to a thorough search at police blockades.
Monday’s violence took place while the Congolese Constitutional Court is examining the results of the March 20 presidential election which were handed over to the authorities for validation.
President Denis Sassou Nguesso, who has been in power for over 32 years, was declared winner of the presidential election with over 60% of votes in the first round.
Five opposition candidates rejected the results calling it a “massive fraud”. In a joint statement signed by General Mokoko, they urged the people to challenge the results through legal and peaceful means.