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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 July 2006, 14:57 GMT 15:57 UK
Deaths at DR Congo election rally
Former DR Congo militiaman
The UN has been trying to disarm fighters across eastern DR Congo
Several people have died in the Democratic Republic of Congo after gunmen fired on an election rally.

At the same time, the UN-backed committee overseeing the elections has called for the army to be confined to barracks during the poll on 30 July.

Meanwhile, six television stations have been ordered to suspend broadcasts for allegedly violating the electoral code.

Over 30 presidential and hundreds of parliamentary candidates are contesting the first democratic poll in 40 years.

The shooting took place on Monday afternoon at a rally near Rutshuru in Kivu province - an area where rebels and militia groups are still active.

It's vital that after the election the international community doesn't just cut and run, leaving the job half done
Juliette Prodhan, Oxfam
Officials have not confirmed the death toll, but local reports say up to seven died at the rally in Kivu province.

The rally was in support of independent parliamentary candidate Jean-Luc Mutokambale.

The shooting is reported to be the most serious violent incident in the current campaign.

Army worries

The International Committee in Support of the Transition (CIAT) said soldiers and the presidential guard should be confined to barracks on 30 July.

Supporters of President Kabila
President Kabila has the best financed campaign

It said Congolese police officers and UN peacekeepers should be deployed instead. Correspondents say there are concerns that the Congolese army is politicised and human rights groups have accused its soldiers of killing civilians.

Amnesty International, Oxfam, Human Rights Watch and other groups on Wednesday urged the UN peacekeeping force and international donors not to abandon DR Congo after the elections.

"Our fear is that the international community will look at the elections as the starting point for their exit strategy," Amnesty International's Veronique Aubert told Reuters news agency.

"It's vital that after the election the international community doesn't just cut and run, leaving the job half done," said Oxfam International's Juliette Prodhan.

TV ban

In another development, six TV stations, including the state-owned Congolese National Radio Television, were ordered by the Media High Authority to suspend broadcasts for 72 hours.

Officials were quoted as saying the broadcasters had "persisted in violations" of election media rules, despite warnings.

The UN mission in DR Congo (Monuc) has been helping the Congolese army to disarm militias across the east, ahead of elections on 30 July.

The polls are intended to end the transition period following the official end of DR Congo's five-year war in 2003.

There are some 17,000 UN troops in DR Congo - the largest peacekeeping force in the world.


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