DRC presidential hopeful says she was barred from travel

The sole woman candidate in Democratic Republic of Congo's tense presidential race on Thursday accused the government of blocking her from travelling abroad, two months before elections to replace Joseph Kabila.

Marie-Josee Ifoku, whose candidacy was initially rejected by election authorities before the decision was overturned by the constitutional court, is one of 21 people standing for the December polls in the nation, which has not seen a peaceful transition of power since 1960.

She told AFP that she was stopped by authorities when she attempted to visit Brazzaville in neighbouring Republic of Congo earlier this week, adding that officials had detained her colleague.

Brazzaville and Kinshasa lies on opposite sides of the Congo river.

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"I regularly receive threats from the security services," said Ifoku, 53, adding that she had been pressured to support the candidacy of Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a hardline former interior minister backed by Kabila.

"I left the majority to fight this rotten system... we are prevented from leaving the country, what will happen during the election campaign?" she said.

Neither the authorities, nor representatives from the ruling coalition were immediately available to respond to AFP questions on the claims.

Kabila, who has held office since 2001, has said he will not run again in the long-delayed December 23 ballot.

Months of feverish speculation about Kabila's plans, marked by protests that were bloodily repressed, ended in August when he threw his weight behind Shadary.

In September the constitutional court upheld the appeals by Ifoku, a former vice-governor of Tshuapa province, as well as former prime minister Samy Badibanga, who had both been banned by the electoral commission for falling short of nationality requirements.

But while a candidate list finalised at the end of last month included opposition figures Felix Tshisekedi and Vital Kamerhe, it confirmed the exclusion of former warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba and regional baron Moise Katumbi - a move that raised howls of protest from their powerful blocs of supporters.

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