U.N. alarmed by violence ahead of Congo presidential election

The U.N. human rights chief on Friday called on the government of Democratic Republic of Congo to halt violence and inflammatory speech ahead of the country’s long-delayed Dec. 23 presidential election.

Michelle Bachelet’s comments came a day after a fire at a warehouse in the capital Kinshasa destroyed thousands of voting machines and ballot boxes meant for a vote that could mark Congo’s first peaceful transfer of power.

Candidates for President Joseph Kabila’s ruling coalition and the opposition blamed each other for the incident. Violence has flared on the campaign trail this week, with security forces killing at least two people at opposition gatherings.

“In an already tense electoral environment, I urge the government to send a clear signal that threats and violence against political opponents will not be tolerated,” Bachelet said in a statement

“I am deeply worried about the reports of excessive use of force, including live ammunition, by security forces against opposition rallies.”

Congo’s forensic police are investigating Thursday’s blaze and the national electoral commission said the vote would go ahead as scheduled.

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Congo presidential electionpresidential electionelection violence