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West urges Congo to suspend new election law

Rights groups claim 42 people have been killed in the demonstrations in the DRC.

FILE: Protesters run after Democratic Republic of Congo's soldiers opened fire to disperse a crowd of demonstrators on 20 January 2015 in Kinshasa. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Western powers have urged the Democratic Republic of Congo to withdraw or redraft divisive changes to electoral law due to be voted through today.

This follows widespread protests in Kinshasa against a reform of the electoral code which the opposition says is designed to keep President Joseph Kabila in power.

Rights groups claim 42 people have been killed in the demonstrations in the DRC.

At least one woman was killed when police fired tear gas and live rounds to break up thousands more activists in the eastern city of Goma on Thursday, witnesses said. Police told Reuters only tear gas and sound grenades were used.

Envoys from the United States, Britain, France and former colonial power Belgium met Senate President Leon Kengo Wa Dondo on Wednesday, a diplomat said, the day before a Senate vote on the legislation which has raised further fears of violence.

At the same time, 10 DRC nationals have been arrested after setting a police vehicle alight outside their country's embassy in Pretoria.

Police say over 100 people protested outside the embassy in Sunnyside yesterday afternoon, demanding President Jacob Zuma take a stand and facilitate real democracy in their home country.

The police's Kay Makhubela says, "They started to push the gate, the police removed them. During the removal, one member threw a petrol bomb at a police van."

Additional reporting by Reuters

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