Police ban Congo rallies as election tensions flare

Sat Nov 26, 2011 2:35pm GMT

By Jonny Hogg and David Lewis

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Police in the Congolese capital Kinshasa banned all campaign rallies on Saturday after rival supporters hurled rocks at each other and at least one person was reported dead as tensions rose two days before presidential and parliamentary elections.

Riot police used tear gas to disperse a political gathering in central Kinshasa and one person was injured as presidential guard members fired shots to clear opposition supporters from the airport, Reuters reporters said.

Asked to confirm reports of the ban, Kinshasa police chief Jean de Dieu Oleko told Reuters: "Yes, all of them."

President Joseph Kabila and his two main rivals, Etienne Tshisekedi and Vital Kamerhe, were all due to hold rallies within several hundred metres of each other later on Saturday.

Jacquemain Shabani Lukoo, secretary-general of Tshisekedi's UPDS party, said their event would continue as planned.

"It is Kabila who has cancelled his meeting. We are carrying on with our meeting," Shabani said.

Citing health and security officials, a United Nations source said at least one person had died but there was no official confirmation of the death or its circumstances. A Reuters reporter saw a lifeless body on the road leading to the airport, where Tshisekedi was due to arrive from the provinces.

It was the latest sign of tension in the run-up to Congo's second presidential election since a 1998-2003 war, a poll which has been marked by opposition allegations of irregularities and concerns of inadequate preparations.   Continued...

Supporters of legislative candidate Edo Kiaku Mbuta march through the streets of Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa November 25, 2011. Congo's election due on Monday will test the giant nation's tentative steps towards recovery after decades of instability, but last-minute and heavily-criticised preparations point to a chaotic vote and a potentially bloody aftermath. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly
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