DRC election challenger in campaign rally airport standoff
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Security forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo blocked incumbent President Joseph Kabila’s main challenger on Saturday at the capital’s international airport ahead of the country’s presidential elections. Etienne Tshisekedi and his UDPS party supporters were stopped by police after Kinshasa’s governor André Kimbuta Yango banned campaigning following violence.
The United Nations mission in the DRC (Monusco) had offered to escort Tshisekedi home from the airport after him and his supporters were blockaded by Congolese police.
However, late Saturday night he turned the escort down saying he would lead his supporters into Kinshasa.
The standoff began early Saturday afternoon after violence prompted the city’s governor to order a ban on campaigning. At least two people died in clashes.
Saturday was the last official day of campaigning before Monday’s elections and several of the main parties had planned to hold rallies.
There was violence in several areas of Kinshasa. RFI witnessed stone-throwing in Limete, a suburb of Kinshasa considered a Tshisekedi stronghold.
The DRC’s electoral commission has insisted that violence will not delay Monday’s vote, calling for voters to cast their ballot peacefully.
“I’m not expecting any change,” said the electoral commission’s chief Daniel Ngoy Mulunda. “God is on our side. We’ve had some delays from the weather but we know that it will work. And on Monday it won’t rain,” he added.
Meanwhile, Vital Kamerhe, one of Kabila’s main challengers, blamed Saturday’s violence on the security forces.
“The republican guard are in Kinshasa’s streets,” he told RFI. “That’s like how things started in Cote d’Ivoire, with the armed forces of the elite,” he added, referring to the recent post-election crisis in West Africa.
Monday’s vote is the DRC’s second election after civil war and is seen as a key test of the country’s emergence as a democracy.