Child killed by police in pre-election clashes

Kinshasa

A child has been shot dead by police during clashes between supporters of rival political camps in the Democratic Republic of Congo ahead of next month's election, according to the government and the UN.

Police intervened after supporters of presidential challenger Etienne Tshisekedi clashed with a group loyal to incumbent Joseph Kabila on Friday in the city of Mbuji-Mayi, a Tshisekedi stronghold in Kasai-Oriental province.

"Police fired in the air and a young girl was hit, it's a real shame," General Charles Bisengimana, the chief of police, said. He did not give the girl's age.

Three others were injured in the violence and running clashes between rival camps continued into Saturday in the city in central Congo, according to Mounoubai Madnodje, spokesman for the UN's peacekeeping mission in the country.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende accused the opposition of deliberately provoking the police but said the security forces needed to act "more professionally," adding that one policeman had been arrested following the death.

The offices of Tshisekedi's UDPS party in the capital Kinshasa were also attacked on Saturday afternoon by armed men in jeeps, according to Jacquemain Shabani Lukoo, secretary general of the party.

Congo's 28 November presidential election will be the second since the country emerged from a brutal civil war that left millions dead, and experts have warned that the poll could spark off renewed violence. Doubt has already been cast on the validity of the vote after The Independent revealed that a government-commissioned report on the electoral process had documented hundreds of thousands of double-registered "ghost voters" who could skew the polls.

Kabila is favourite to be re-elected despite losing considerable support over his failure to tackle corruption or bring total peace to the country, still haunted by rebel groups in its eastern jungles. REUTERS

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