News / Africa

France Pressured Over Attack on Congolese Official

Lisa Bryant

French authorities are searching for suspects in a violent attack on the Democratic Republic of Congo's Senate president in Paris.

Congolese authorities have protested the incident, calling France's response timid.

French authorities say they are doing everything they can to hunt down those who attacked Congolese Senate President Leon Kengo as he left a Paris train station late Saturday. Kengo is receiving treatment at a Paris hospital.

Nonetheless, Congolese authorities have summoned France's ambassador for questioning over the incident. They say Paris should have provided security to Kengo, although French officials say they were not informed of his visit ahead of time.

In remarks to French TV, Democratic Republic of Congo's Communications Minister Lambert Mende criticized France's reaction to the aggression, explaining that opposition activists had attacked other Congolese officials during Paris stopovers, and that Kinshasa's embassy in the city has also been attacked.

Congo's main opposition party, Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDSP), has distanced itself from the incident. Party spokesman Felix Tshisekedi condemned the Kengo attack, but in remarks to French TV he said it reflected the consequences of actions by the Congolese government.

The attack in Paris occurred just weeks after disputed DRC elections, and feelings are still running high. UDSP leader Etienne Tshisekedi claims elections fraud robbed him of victory against incumbent President Joseph Kabila.

France and former colonial power Belgium have raised questions about the vote. U.S. officials and rights groups have described it as seriously flawed.

Like their counterparts at home, anti-government protesters in the Congolese diaspora have staged marches in Paris and other European capitals to protest the election results. Paris-based protester Sylvie Diakise reacted positively to the attack against Senate president Kengo.

"At least the incident is drawing international attention to the political situation in DRC in ways peaceful protest have been unable to do," said Diakise via translator.

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