Congo opposition party says activist killed in violence at election rally

KINSHASA (Reuters) – A Congolese youth activist was killed on Tuesday by stones pelted during an opposition campaign rally in the east-central city of Kindu, the party of presidential candidate Moise Katumbi said.

The Together for the Republic party accused local authorities of seeking to stifle the opposition and allowing unnamed attackers to hurl stones during the campaign event at which Katumbi and two other opposition candidates who back him for the Dec. 20 election appeared.

“This violence … caused the tragic death of Mr Dido Kakisingi,” the party said in a statement. Kakisingi, a lawyer and father of six, was the head of a political youth league in Maniema province that supports Katumbi, the party said.

“It’s arbitrary and sabotage. They didn’t even send the police to secure us,” said Seth Kikuni, one of the opposition candidates backing Katumbi.

The police did not respond to a request for comment. The local governor could not be reached by phone.

Tensions are running high in the run-up to presidential, legislative, and regional elections in Africa’s second-largest country, which is also struggling to contain a myriad of armed groups in its mineral-rich east.

The CENI election commission has promised a fair and well-run election, but all of the opposition candidates have expressed concerns about potential electoral fraud. The United States has said it is concerned about possible violence and threats to freedom of peaceful assembly.

Maniema civil society leader Stephane Kamundala said there was a real risk of further bloodshed and accused the various political factions of deliberately deepening divisions.

“There is a fear of clashes between these groups of young people … as currently each camp is recruiting them for its electoral interests,” he told Reuters.

President Felix Tshisekedi is seeking a second term and is running against more than two dozen rivals. They include businessmen Katumbi and Martin Fayulu, who came second in the disputed 2018 poll, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Denis Mukwege.

(Reporting by Ange Kasongo, Sonia Rolley, and Fiston Mahamba; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Susan Fenton)