At least three killed in protests over Congo election chief

KINSHASA (Reuters) - At least three people were killed during protests in Congo's capital and elsewhere on Thursday, a U.N. rights body said, after the nomination of an election commission chief stirred public anger and further tension in the ruling coalition.

Police fired tear gas to disperse thousands of supporters of President Felix Tshisekedi and democracy campaigners as they marched through the streets of Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Goma and several smaller towns.

The United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) said it was "concerned about the use of lethal force by law enforcement which led to the death of two protesters."

In its post on Twitter, the UNJHRO also condemned the death of a police officer.

The police declined to comment.

The protesters were upset at the move to appoint Ronsard Malonda as president of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), whose nomination was ratified by the national assembly last week but is yet to be signed off by the President.

Tshisekedi's supporters accuse Malonda of being close to former President Joseph Kabila, who still wields extensive powers through his parliamentary majority, control of most cabinet ministries and the army.

The coalition government, an awkward alliance formed after the 2018 election between Tshisekedi, Kabila and several smaller parties, has shown increasing signs of disharmony in recent months.

In Kinshasa the crowd tore down part of a building belonging to Kabila's party, a Reuters witness said.

"They want to make Mr Malonda the head of CENI to block us in the elections of 2023," said Hague Mata, a UDPS supporter.

Opposition party Lamuka have accused Malonda, who has worked in senior positions in CENI for many years, of "being an agent" of Kabila's party and helping with the 2018 "electoral heist" that denied them victory.

Kabila's political alliance denied in a tweet they had anything to do with Malonda's nomination, and said responsibility for the appointment rested with civil society and religious organisations.

(Reporting by Benoit Nyemba and Stanis Bujakera in Kinshasa and Djaffar Al Katanty in Goma; additional reporting and writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Alessandra Prentice and Chizu Nomiyama)

07/09/2020 19:31

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