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Seven Killed as Candidates Campaign in Dangerous Congo


As many as seven people were killed late Monday when gunmen opened fire on a campaign rally in eastern Congo. The killings, as well as continued violent demonstrations in the capital Tuesday, highlight the tensions surrounding the country's historic elections, just two weeks away.

Eastern Congo is a violent part of the world but candidates contesting historic parliamentary and presidential elections have been taking their campaigns into the bush to try and win over voters.

With just two weeks until election day, however, a particularly bloody attack in volatile North Kivu province has underlined the dangerous conditions surrounding elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

As independent parliamentary candidate Jean-Luc Mutokambale was addressing a rally in a market place late Monday, unidentified gunmen opened fire on his meeting.

One rival candidate said seven people had been killed and several others injured. Aid workers in the area said they had been told at least five supporters were dead, but all they could confirm was that five people were wounded, including a five year old girl who lost her leg.

United Nations peacekeepers were dispatched to the scene, near the town of Rutshuru, and said that they were given similar figures for casualties.

A plethora of armed groups, including Congolese and Rwandan rebels, as well as government forces, operate in the area so it was not possible to say who was to blame for the attack.

Meanwhile, protests in Kinshasa turned violent Tuesday, with demonstrators tearing down campaign posters and police firing tear gas.

Many in the capital, led by the opposition UDPS party, which is boycotting the polls, do not believe that the July 30 elections can be free and fair. They believe the process has been rigged in favor of incumbent President Joseph Kabila.

In an attempt to reassure Congo's population that polling will take place calmly, international donors supporting the peace process have called for all armed forces to be confined to barracks in the lead up to, during and just after elections.

It is hoped that the elections will draw a line under the 1998-2003 war that sucked in six neighboring countries and has killed some four million people.

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