Two supporters of a Democratic Republic of Congo opposition presidential candidate were killed in clashes with police at a rally on Tuesday, a local human rights organisation said, as tensions rise just 12 days before a crucial election.
The Congolese Association for Access to Justice (ACAJ) said 43 people had been wounded, including 15 by bullets, at the rally venue in Lubumbashi, the country’s second largest city. A seriously injured police officer was also among the casualties.
Police meanwhile said that 11 officers and two civilians were injured in the clashes with supporters of Martin Fayulu, a frontrunner in DRC’s election, at the rally.
The opposition coalition Lamuka, which backs Fayulu, said that up to six people had been killed.
An AFP reporter at the scene of the rally earlier said police fired tear gas to disperse several hundred people who had gathered to welcome Fayulu.
Former oil executive Martin Fayulu, 62, a little-known lawmaker making a late surge in the campaign, said police had diverted him away from the venue. But the candidate accused the police of firing “live rounds”.
“They made us follow an itinerary… [preventing us] from reaching the venue,” Fayulu said in a tweet.
“They sent us to the home of ‘Papa’ Kyungu,” he said, referring to a local opposition leader.
The ACAJ said 27 pro-Fayulu supporters were arrested at the rally.
Police had earlier dispersed Fayulu supporters at Lubumbashi airport with tear gas and jets of hot water.
Fears of violence rising
There had been fears of violence ahead of the election on December 23, when voters will choose a successor to outgoing President Joseph Kabila.
The 47-year-old has constitutionally remained in power as caretaker leader even though his second and final elected term ended nearly two years ago.
At stake in the ballot is stewardship of mineral-rich country that has never known a peaceful transition of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.
Kabila has been in power since January 2001, taking the helm after his father, president Laurent-Desire Kabila, was assassinated.
Twenty-one candidates are registered to vie to replace him.
Fayulu last month was named the joint champion of several opposition parties.
His main rivals are Felix Tshisekedi of the mainstream Union for Democracy and Social Progress opposition party, and Kabila’s handpicked successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.
One of Fayulu’s supporters is Moise Katumbi, a former governor whose power base is Lubumbashi, but who has been barred from contesting the elections.
The city, located in the southeastern province of Katanga, is also a Kabila stronghold. Shadary launched his elections campaign there on November 26.