EU concerned at pre-election violence in DR Congo

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Western governments and the EU on Tuesday expressed concern at the violence which has marred the run up to presidential and legislative elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo later this month.

The European Union "is concerned at recent developments in the electoral campaign," the bloc said in a statement published in Kinshasa.

Recent violent acts and calls to disregard the law were creating "a climate of violence and political, social and ethnic tension," the statement continued.

Rival supporters clashed Monday in the DRC where the government also shut down an opposition TV station, as tensions rose with general election only three weeks away.

France called on both the Congolese authorities and the opposition "to avoid all statements or actions that could inflame an already tense situation", in a statement from foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero.

Britain's ambassador to Kinshasa, Neil Wigan, equally called on political actors "to show restraint during the electoral campaign."

In the southeastern mining city of Lubumbashi, street fights erupted between stone-throwing supporters of the ruling Party for Reconstruction and Democracy and of the opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress.

The clashes, which came two days after similar violence left 15 wounded, raised fears that the vast conflict-prone country might slip back into widespread violence ahead of polls scheduled for November 28.

Interviewed from South Africa on Sunday, opposition candidate Etienne Tshisekedi said if the government did not release his supporters arrested during recent protests within 48 hours he would "call on fighters across the country to break down prison doors and release their comrades."

DR Congo's former colonial power Belgium condemned those remarks in a statement Tuesday.

It is "unacceptable for a candidate to proclaim himself a legitimate president while calling for violence," Belgium's foreign affairs and cooperation ministers Steven Vanackere and Olivier Chastel said.

Late Tuesday in Kinshasa a police officer was attacked by opposition militants and a vehicle set alight, according to police who arrested seven suspects.

© 2011 AFP

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