Brazzaville (AFP) - The runner-up in Republic of Congo's election called on his supporters to accept the official results of the violence-tainted poll that returned longtime president Denis Sassou Nguesso to power.
Guy-Brice Parfait Kolelas said he did not wish to stir up controversy by challenging Monday's Constitutional Court's finding that Sassou Nguesso, Congo's ruler of 32 years, won last month's election with over 60 percent of the vote.
"I accept the Constitutional Court's verdict, however questionable," Kolelas told reporters in the capital Brazzaville.
"I nonetheless invite President Sassou Nguesso, the declared winner, to be humble in victory because this election has been marred by all sorts of irregularities," he said, calling on the president to work to heal the divisions wrought by the vote.
On Monday, heavy fighting erupted in southern Brazzaville districts loyal to the opposition ahead of the court's confirmation of the election results.
The government accused former members of the disbanded Ninja Nsiloulou militia of a "terrorist attack" targeting several public buildings. Five people were killed, including three security force members.
A dozen attackers were also killed in the fighting, which saw six police stations and a town hall set on fire and sent thousands fleeing the south of the capital.
The government blames the violence, which comes on the heels of the disputed election last month, on the Ninja militia, which fought two civil wars in the 1990s.
The Ninjas are headed by Protestant preacher Frederic Bintsamou, known as Pastor Ntumi. He recently came out in favour of Kolelas, who took 15 percent of the March 20 vote.
Kolelas was among five presidential challengers who had claimed electoral fraud when the provisional poll results were announced last month. He called for peaceful protests.
Government spokesman Thierry Moungalla said there was "overwhelming evidence" that "clearly points to the active implication of Mr Bintsamou in the events of Monday".
But Kolelas rejected the government's claim that former militia members were responsible for the violence, accusing the authorities of a set-up aimed at quelling protests.
He said the government was trying to "nip in the bud any challenge that would come from the announcement of the final results of the presidential election".
Congo has been on edge since an October constitutional referendum ended a two-term limit on presidential mandates, allowing the 72-year-old head of state to run again.
Sassou Nguesso, a former paratrooper, served as president from 1979 to 1992, returning to power in 1997 following a civil war.
He won two successive terms in elections in 2002 and 2009, both of which were disputed by opposition parties.