When one of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s leading opposition presidential candidates campaigned in the mining town of Lubumbashi last week, security forces reportedly sprayed his convoy with tear gas and live ammunition, leaving at least three people dead. Martin Fayulu was heading from the airport towards the city centre surrounded by thousands of supporters, when the clash took place. The next morning the shells of burnt out vehicles littered the tree-lined streets and torn ruling-party campaign posters flapped in the wind. “First we felt the tear gas, and then they fired shots,” Mr Fayulu told the Financial Times in an interview in Lubumbashi. “How can we continue campaigning in this atmosphere?” Congo’s elections next Sunday are set to be historic — the country’s first transition of power by the ballot box as President Joseph Kabila steps down after 17 years in office. But Mr Fayulu’s experience has raised fears they will be far from democratic.
Backed by the wealthy opposition leaders Moise Katumbi and Jean-Pierre Bemba — both of whom have been disqualified from standing — Mr Fayulu has been criss-crossing Congo in a private aircraft for the last two weeks. But even with significant financial resources at his disposal, his campaign has faced huge obstacles.
From Lubumbashi in the country’s southeast, Mr Fayulu flew north the following day to the town of Kalemie to be met with a similar show of government force which left one young woman dead and nine people injured, according to the UN. The week before, though candidates should have free access to the whole country, the military prevented his plane from landing in the town of Kindu, a stronghold of President Kabila’s chosen successor, Mr Fayulu said.