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Authorities Say Police Officer Killed In Violent Clash In East Congo

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Authorities say one police officer was killed on Monday in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in clashes between security forces and protesters demanding the departure of President Joseph Kabila.

The national electoral commission announced on Oct 11 that an election to replace Kabila, whose mandate expired last December, cannot take place until April 2019.

The delay has raised fears of a new escalation of violence in the Central African giant.

Activist groups in the eastern Congo city of Goma had called for a general strike on Monday to protest against the election delay.

Unrest broke out by 5 a.m. (0700 GMT) between police and protesters, who barricaded roads and burned tires, said Thomas D‘Acquin, head of an activist group in North Kivu province.

D‘Aquin told Reuters that at least one civilian had been killed in addition to one police officer.

He said gunshots could be heard for several hours.

Patrick Maki, a local journalist, said he witnessed protesters beat one police officer to death.

The provincial police commander, Placide Nyembo, said he did not yet have information on casualties but that police were removing the barricades and had the situation under control.

“We know who is behind this: politicians who work anonymously, distributing tracts and messages on the internet,” Nyembo said.

Deteriorating security across Congo this year, including a spike in militia violence, has prompted fears the country could slip back to the multi-sided civil wars of the turn of the century, when hundreds of thousands were killed in violence and millions are believed to have perished of hunger and disease.

Kabila says the election delays are due to challenges registering millions of voters.

His opponents suspect he plans to change the constitution to remain in power, as other African leaders have done, which he denies.

NAN reports that on Oct. 27, U.S. ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley while on visit insisted that the Democratic Republic of Congo must hold a long-delayed election to replace Kabila by the end of 2018 or the vote will lose international support.

The Repeated delays to the poll, originally scheduled for late 2016, have fueled surging political tensions in the Central African nation.

U.S. envoy said that this had raised fears the country could slip back to the wars of the turn of the century that killed millions.

Haley, who met with the Congolese electoral commission during a visit to Kinshasa, said that she had passed on a message that “these elections must take place in 2018 or there will be no support for the electoral process.”

The electoral commission had said earlier this month that the vote to replace Kabila could not take place until April 2019 at the earliest, leading the opposition to warn that the population would “take matters into its own hands”.

“The U.S. will not support anything in 2019. The international community will not support anything in 2019,” Haley said.

Haley, who is wrapping up a week-long trip to Ethiopia, South Sudan and Congo, was scheduled to meet Kabila later on Friday.

Kabila has ruled Congo since his father’s assassination in 2001. (NAN)

 

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