Congo sect in deadly poll clashes

Matadi, DRC - At least 90 people have been killed in clashes between an anti-government religious sect in western Democratic Republic of Congo and the police.

The dispute began after the sect, Bundu dia Kongo, said last week's election for governor of Bas-Congo was rigged.

There have been riots in three towns, during which a police station was raided and inmates freed from a prison.

Correspondents say the group has an ethnic-based following and campaigns for the secession of the region.

There were riots in DR Congo's main port, Matadi and the towns of Mwanda and Boma on Thursday but the area is now reported to be calm.

Leader's base raided

Congolese military sources told the BBC's Arnaud Zajtman in Kinshasa that the army had now retaken control of Boma but in the process, they had killed 20 civilians.

In Mwanda, members of the sect took control of the police station and freed prisoners.

At least four policemen were killed, according to UN sources.

Police say a gun fight began when they raided the home of the sect's leader Nemwanda Seni in the port of Matadi early on Thursday.

Matadi mayor Jean-Marc Nzeyidio gave an earlier death toll of at least 12 during the violence there.

"An inquiry is under way to determine the identity of the victims and the exact circumstances of events," AFP quoted him as saying.

During street protests, Bundu dia Kongo members chanted: "The Congo can't be rebuilt on corruption."

They are unhappy that the opposition-dominated provincial assemblies in Kinshasa and Bas Congo have elected members of the ruling party as state governors.

They say the MPs must have been paid to do so.

'Using corruption'

President Joseph Kabila became DR Congo's first freely elected leader in 40 years after winning October's run-off presidential poll.

The local elections complete a peace process begun in 2002 when a five-year war that had drawn in much of the region ended.

Defeated presidential candidate Jean-Pierre Bemba and his Union for the Nation party did well in western DR Congo.

In his inaugural speech, Mr Kabila said he was committed to making the fight against corruption his top priority.

The leader of Bundu Dia Kongo accused the newly elected president of using corruption to reinforce his power, instead of respecting his word.