Two candidates running for parliament in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Dec 20 general election were killed in separate incidents on Friday, as a rights group warned in a report on Saturday that electoral violence risks undermining the vote. A candidate for the ruling coalition in the South Kivu province in the eastern Congo region was killed by unknown gunmen while he was returning from a campaign event on Friday evening, a regional government official told Reuters.
Another ruling coalition candidate in Beni, in the North Kivu province, also in eastern Congo, died from gunshot wounds late on Friday night after his campaign convoy was ambushed, Jeremie Muhindo, director of the Beni hospital, told Reuters.
Congo will vote in a general election next week. Alongside the violence, opposition parties and independent observers have warned that issues including illegible voter cards, blocked campaign planes and electoral list delays threaten the legitimacy of the results. Human Rights Watch said in a report on Saturday that election-related violence risks undermining the election.
“Since early October, Human Rights Watch has documented clashes across the country between supporters of rival political parties that have resulted in assaults, sexual violence and at least one death,” the report said.
It added that the violence was coming both from supporters of the ruling coalition and opposition parties, and said incidents continue to be reported. An evangelical church, the Church of Christ in Congo, said in a statement on Friday its temple in the capital Kinshasa was vandalised during violent clashes between supporters of an opposition politician and those of the ruling coalition.
In a separate incident unrelated to the election, at least 11 civilians including six women were decapitated in an attack on a village in Ituri province on Friday, a deputy mayor said.
The attack has been blamed on militants linked to the Islamic State-affiliated Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which operates in the eastern Congo region. “There was a funeral in the village. The assailants surprised the victims while they were gathered. Eleven people were killed, others had managed to escape,” Freddy Mbayahi, deputy mayor of Mangina municipality in Ituri, told Reuters.
DR Congo’s democracy has been backsliding ahead of elections this month, according to rights defenders, as prominent journalists languish in prison and the murder of an opposition politician remains unsolved.
President Felix Tshisekedi came to power in 2019 after a campaign criticising the rights record of his predecessor Joseph Kabila, among other issues.
But a slew of recent events have sparked concerns about the president’s own record. A former minister turned opposition member was found dead in the central African nation’s capital Kinshasa in July.
A few months later, one the best-known Congolese journalists was imprisoned after the authorities accused him of spreading fake news about the murder. “These are signs of the narrowing of the democratic space,” said a rights researcher, who requested anonymity.
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