Appeals for restraint in Congo

 

International organisations appealed for calm on the eve of Democratic Republic of Congo's presidential election, after a run-up that has already been tainted by deadly street clashes and delayed poll preparations.

Concerns have been mounting about the central African country's readiness for its second post-war presidential contest, and what impact a troubled vote might have on efforts to stabilise the giant minerals-producing nation.

The European Union and the United Nations called for restraint after at least three people were killed on Saturday, the last day of campaigning, and the main opposition challenger said he would hold a rally today despite a ban on political rallies the day before the vote.

"The security forces should refrain from any acts that could heighten tensions and create any difficulties on the eve of elections," Mounoubai Madnodje, spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission, said.

Election officials in Congo were scrambling to get remaining ballots to polling stations after delays at all stages of the process. But the head of the electoral body said he expected the election to go ahead as planned.

The EU observer mission accused the police of denying President Joseph Kabila's main rival, Etienne Tshisekedi, his right to campaign in the capital after he was blocked by security forces at the airport yesterday.

Police had earlier banned rallies after violence erupted in the sprawling capital Kinshasa.

The confirmed death toll for Saturday's violence has risen to three, according to U.N. human rights sources.

Mr Tshisekedi on Sunday accused international actors, including the head of the United Nations mission in Congo, of being against him, and said that, as his rally was blocked on today, he would hold one later today.