December 12, 2018 / 3:15 PM / a year ago

Congo police fire live rounds to disperse opposition candidate supporters

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Police in Democratic Republic of Congo fired teargas and live bullets for a second day on Wednesday to disperse supporters of opposition presidential candidate Martin Fayulu, killing at least one person, local activists said.

Campaigning over the past three weeks for the long-delayed Dec. 23 election has been mostly peaceful, but the flare-ups in the southeastern Katanga region have raised concerns about a repeat of the violence that plagued the 2006 and 2011 votes.

Police in the town of Kalemie blocked the convoy of vehicles transporting Fayulu to a rally and started shooting into the air, said David Ngoy Luhaka, a priest and member of the Diocesan Commission for Justice and Peace.

One woman was hit by a bullet and later died, he said.

“When Fayulu reached the Musalala hotel in Kalemie he was stopped by police who started shooting and firing teargas,” Ngoy said. “One woman was killed. We are still counting arrests and injuries.”

Rogatien Kitenge, a civil society leader, confirmed police had fired live rounds and teargas and that one woman had been killed. Fayulu was eventually able to hold his rally.

Government and police spokespeople could not be reached for comment.

Fayulu is one of two major opposition leaders challenging the former interior minister, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. Shadary is representing the ruling coalition of President Joseph Kabila, who cannot stand due to term limits after 18 years in power.

On Tuesday, police also fired teargas and live rounds to disperse Fayulu’s supporters in the Lubumbashi, Congo’s second city, rights activists said.

“On the way from the airport to the place where Fayulu was going to address the crowd the police began to throw tear gas, hot water and another blue liquid at the population,” activist Jean-Pierre Muteba told Reuters, refering to Tuesday’s events.

“Personally, I saw two people seriously injured by bullets.”

The Congolese Association for Access to Justice (ACAJ) said two people were killed in the violence on Tuesday, 43 people were injured and 27 Fayulu supporters were arrested.

Opposition coalition Lamuka, which is backing Fayulu, said the police crackdowns “show clearly that President Kabila and his team realise that ... they are going to lose the elections”.

Kabila’s supporters say they are confident Shadary will win the election and routinely accuse opposition politicians of exaggerating alleged violence by state forces.

A spokesperson for Congo’s U.N. mission condemned the violence and called on authorities to take measures to prevent further incidents.

Reporting by Giulia Paravicini; Editing by Juliette Jabkhiro and Angus MacSwan

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