Violence Mars Congo Election Campaign, Two Candidates Killed

Beni, Congo — Two candidates running for parliament in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s December 20 general election were killed in separate incidents Friday, as a rights group warned in a report 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 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 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 plans and electoral list delays threaten the legitimacy of the results. 

Election-related violence risks undermining the election, said Human Rights Watch in a report on Saturday.

“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 from both supporters of the ruling coalition as well as supporters of opposition parties, and said incidents continue to be reported. 

An evangelical church, the Church of Christ in Congo, said in a statement Friday its temple in the capital Kinshasa was vandalized 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 Friday, a deputy mayor said. The attack has been blamed on militants linked to the Islamic State-affiliated Allied Democratic Forces, 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,” Katembo Salamu, deputy mayor of Mangina municipality in Ituri, told Reuters.  

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