Perched on the border with Angola, Congo’s two southern Kasai provinces have been relative havens of peace in a country dogged by insecurity eight years after a war that claimed five million lives.
But with local hero Etienne Tshisekedi emerging as the main rival to President Joseph Kabila in a Nov 28 poll which already has triggered violent clashes, the local calm is at threat.
The 78-year-old Tshisekedi, who returned from self-imposed exile abroad late last year, ratcheted up tensions last week by unilaterally declaring himself president and calling for attacks on prisons to release people he says are political detainees. The comments were labelled as treasonous by the government in Kinshasa and drew a sharp rebuke from the African Union, which is trying to keep a lid on confrontation ahead of voting. The UN and the EU joined those warning against bloodshed.