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DR Congo capital bans rallies ahead of vote

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Kinshasa (AFP)

The capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo announced Wednesday that it was barring all public rallies, four days ahead of elections in the volatile central African country.

The governor of Kinshasa, Andre Kimbuta, citing what he said was the likelihood of violence, announced the ban on the day that opposition candidate Martin Fayulu was to hold a meeting in the city.

"The provincial government of Kinshasa, on security grounds, has decided to suspend election campaign activities on all of the territory of the capital from today, December 18," Kimbuta's statement said.

The measure applies to "all presidential candidates, without exception," it said.

"Information at our disposal confirms that in all the political camps of the main presidential candidates, extremists are prepared and are preparing for confrontations in the streets of the city of Kinshasa during election campaigning," the communique said.

The statement, which was confirmed by the Kinshasa police, said the ban would not apply to "use of media" to convey campaign messages.

More than 40 million people are eligible to cast their vote on Sunday.

The elections are a huge challenge for the DRC, which has never known a peaceful transition of power since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

President Laurent Kabila, 47, has been in power for 17 years, succeeding his assassinated father in 2001.

He is at the helm of a government that critics say is notorious for corruption, incompetence and rights abuse.

Kabila should have stepped down as president at the end of 2016 when he reached a two-term limit.

He stayed on, invoking a caretaker clause in the constitution, but at the cost of protests that were bloodily repressed.

Twenty-one candidates are vying to replace him.

The front-runners are Kabila's hand-picked successor Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a hardline former interior minister linked to the crackdown, and opposition leaders Fayulu and Felix Tshisekedi.

Fayulu repeatedly accused the authorities of trying to thwart campaign appearances in the east and southeast of the sprawling country.

His rally on Wednesday had been scheduled to take place in Saint-Therese Square in the Ndjili district.

Several hundred people were calmly awaiting him there at mid-day, and other supporters were seen at a highway in the east of the city, where his motorcade was due to pass, AFP reporters said.

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