Congolese Presidential Candidate Orders Jail Breaks

Campaigning in the Democratic Republic of Congo has taken a stormy turn. Veteran opposition politician and presidential candidate Etienne Tshisekedi proclaimed himself president, and ordered his supporters to stage jailbreaks to free their detained colleagues.

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Voters in the Congo head to the polls at the end of this month. The campaigning has been beset by violence which threatens to undermine an electoral process in a giant nation that's at the heart of Africa. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Campaigning took a stormy turn when veteran Congolese opposition politician and presidential candidate Etienne Tshisekedi sent a bombshell. He proclaimed himself president and ordered his supporters to stage jailbreaks to free their detained colleagues.

ETIENNE TSHISEKEDI: (Foreign language spoken)

QUIST-ARCTON: Tshisekedi's statement set the tone for confrontation. Firing tear gas and live bullets, Congo's police force cracked down on demonstrators protesting an electoral role critics say is stuffed with ghost voters. Incumbent President Joseph Kabila is seeking a second term at the helm of this nation of 72 million. He's battling to promote development in a huge country with few paved roads and a reputation for corruption. While mineral-rich Congo struggles to shake off its long legacy of dictatorship and devastating conflicts, church leaders and the International Criminal Court warn of mounting violence, incitement to ethnic strife and hate speech just days ahead of the hotly contested elections. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Dakar.

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