Kabila party HQ ‘ransacked’, one shot dead in DR Congo vote demo

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One person died at a protest on Tuesday against the arrival of the “pro-Kabila” candidate in a city in central DR Congo, days ahead of elections that will see the country emerge from the 17-year presidency of Joseph Kabila.

The unrest in Tshikapa, a city in the restive central Kasai region, also saw the presidential party’s headquarters there being ransacked, according to witnesses.

Details of how the victim died in Tshikapa were still emerging, but one local NGO said soldiers had opened fire to disperse protesting crowds in the city and shot a market woman in the head.

Another local source confirmed the death at the protest but gave no details of how the victim was killed. There no immediate official confirmation from local authorities.

The violence comes after at least one other person was killed and more than 80 injured in weekend clashes in the city, the latest unrest in the tense build-up to the December 23 ballot.

“The soldiers, who were supporting the police, opened fire to disperse the demonstrators. A woman who was selling embers at the Sokajik market was hit in the head,” said the head of a Congolese NGO which was on site.

A campaign trip by “pro-Kabila” candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a former interior minister and close ally of the president, was cancelled after the violence.

“The candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary will reschedule the visit to Tshikapa tomorrow or the day after tomorrow after assessing the security situation,” one of his relatives told AFP.

Images of the raided presidential offices were widely shared on social media.

Video posts also showed hundreds of young people, some armed with sticks, marching and chanting on Tuesday against the arrival of Shadary.

“At the moment, the city is paralysed. Only armed soldiers and police are moving but there are groups of young people who want to confront the security forces,” said Fabien Ngweshi, a journalist based in Tshikapa.

A number of people have been killed in pre-election violence since the beginning of campaigning on November 22.

A civil rights group, the Congolese Association for Access to Justice (ACAJ), said in a statement on Tuesday that ten people have died.

Twenty-one candidates are running to replace 47-year-old Kabila, who has ruled the mineral-rich nation since the assassination of his father in 2001.

Western governments are closely watching the election violence and vote outcome in the vast African state, which has never known a peaceful transfer of power since independence from colonial Belgium in 1960.