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UPDATE 2-Governor halts Congo election campaigning in Kinshasa

Updated: 19-12-2018 19:09 IST
The governor of Congo's capital Kinshasa on Wednesday ordered a halt to campaigning in the city ahead of Sunday's presidential vote for security reasons, a move opposition supporters said was an attempt to meddle in the race.

The decision by Governor Andre Kimbuta, a member of the ruling coalition, follows crackdowns by security forces on opposition supporters last week that killed at least seven people and a fire that destroyed thousands of voting machines.

The long-delayed election is meant to choose a successor for President Joseph Kabila, who is due to step down after 18 years in power. If successful, it would be Democratic Republic of Congo's first democratic transfer of power.

"The information in our possession attests that in all the political camps of the main presidential candidates, extremists have prepared and are preparing for a street confrontation in the city of Kinshasa during election campaign activities," Kimbuta said in a statement, without giving further details.

Kinshasa is an opposition stronghold, where security forces have killed dozens of people during protests against Kabila's refusal to step down when his mandate officially expired two years ago.

Campaigning was due to end at midnight on Friday in the race between Kabila's preferred successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, and two main challengers, Felix Tshisekedi and Martin Fayulu. Fayulu had scheduled a rally in Kinshasa on Wednesday.

"Kimbuta's only objective is to prevent Martin Fayulu's rally. This hasty cancellation, while the crowd is already mobilised, is dangerous and shows the regime's fear," opposition leader Moise Katumbi, a Fayulu supporter, wrote on Twitter.

Opposition leaders say the government is trying to rig the results in Shadary's favour with new electronic voting machines and falsified voter registrations. The government denies it has engaged in fraud.

Governor Kimbuta said the only way presidential candidates could campaign in Kinshasa would be through the media, where Shadary has a clear advantage due to sizeable campaign funds and state or ruling party control of many media outlets.

However, a rare national opinion poll in October showed Tshisekedi leading the race with 36 percent, well ahead of Shadary's 16 percent. Fayulu had 8 percent.

Congolese hope the election can help draw a line under decades of conflict and authoritarian rule.

Millions are estimated to have died in two wars around the turn of the century and dozens of militia remain active near the country's eastern borders.

Rwanda and Uganda intervened in the region during the earlier wars and there are important deposits of minerals such as tin and coltan, which is used in electronic devices such as mobile phones.

More than 100 people have died in clashes this week between rival ethnic groups in the normally peaceful northwest, local activists told Reuters. (Additional reporting by Stanis Bujakera; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Jon Boyle)

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)