Congo orders EU envoy to leave over sanctions
BENI, Congo (AP) — Congo’s government has ordered the European Union ambassador to leave the country within 48 hours, after the EU prolonged sanctions against the ruling party’s presidential candidate ahead of Sunday’s election.
The foreign minister’s order, seen by The Associated Press, calls the ambassador’s comportment “reprehensible” and comes after weeks of pressure by Congo’s government to have the EU sanctions lifted on Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.
The EU last year sanctioned Shadary, a former interior minister, for obstructing Congo’s electoral process and for a crackdown against protesters angry over the long-delayed vote.
The EU, earlier this month, prolonged the asset freeze and travel ban against Shadary, days after Congo’s Foreign Minister Leonard She Okitundu pleaded with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to lift the sanctions, even for a “probationary period.”
There is no immediate comment from Ambassador Bart Ouvry.
Meanwhile, police in eastern Congo have fired live ammunition and tear gas to disperse dozens of people protesting a presidential election delay that means more than one million votes will not count.
The protesters in Beni say the delay announced Wednesday by Congo’s electoral commission makes no sense.
The delay of Sunday’s election until March for Beni and Butembo city is blamed on a deadly Ebola outbreak.
Opposition candidates call the delay a ploy to hurt their chances at the polls.
Protesters in Beni on Thursday marched to the election office demanding the right to vote Sunday with the rest of Congo.
They demanded that the electoral commission’s president resign.
They pointed out that candidates have campaigned in Beni and Butembo with no problems, while school, church and other activities continue.