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Rights group warns of politicians inciting ethnic violence ahead of DR Congo elections

Human Rights Watch has warned that Democratic Republic of the Congo politicians and their supporters are using ethnic hate speech and inciting ethnic violence ahead of next month's elections.

Drc elections 10 28 2011Enlarge
Police clash with opposition supporters as they try to disperse a rally by supporters of Democratic Republic of Congo's 'Union for Democracy and Social Progress' (UDPS) party in Kinshasa on October 6, 2011. Protesters and police were injured and at least eight protesters were arrested after police dispersed protestors who had gathered for a demonstration march demanding more transparency in the November 28 election preparation process. (Dubourthoumieu Gwenn/AFP/Getty Images)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Politicians and their supporters are inciting ethnic violence and using hate speech in the lead up to elections next month in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the group Human Rights Watch has warned.

In one case documented by Human Rights Watch, an ally of President Joseph Kabila said that people from a neighboring province, home to a prominent opposition candidate, were "mosquitos."

“There are too many mosquitos in the living room. Now is the time to apply insecticide," president of the Katanga provincial assembly Gabriel Kyungu said in a speech, witnesses told researchers.

Human Rights Watch says that since March it has documented "dozens" of incidents of elections-related ethnic hate speech and incitements to violence.

The official election campaign began Friday for scheduled presidential and parliamentary elections on November 28, in what is only the second democratic elections since independence in 1960.

"The verbal and physical assaults, primarily against opposition candidates and their supporters, have created a climate of fear in some areas and raised concerns about the credibility of the elections," Human Rights Watch said in a statement Friday.

President Kabila is running for a second term against 10 other presidential candidates. A whopping 19,000 candidates are competing for 500 seats in parliament.

“Candidates who incite violence could provoke a bloody election campaign, and judicial authorities need to step in to stop it,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Anyone aspiring to government office should also recognize the grave dangers of using hate speech.”

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/111028/drc-congo-elections-ethnic-violence-hate-speech-human-rights-watch