Dec. 28 (UPI) -- The Congolese government has demanded the European Union recall its envoy over new sanctions against 14 officials, including a candidate for president.
Foreign Minister Leonard She Okitundu signed an order Thursday giving the EU 48 hours to withdraw envoy Bart Ouvry. The move is a response to EU sanctions extended earlier this month against the officials.
The call comes just a few days before Congolese elect a new president. Candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary is supported by President Joseph Kabila, who's been in power for 18 years -- but he's named in the EU sanctions in relation to repression of anti-Kabila protests.
The EU first leveled the sanctions against Congolese officials last year, and they were renewed this month. They cite Shadary for his role as Congo's vice prime minister and minister of interior and security.
The sanctions target Shadary for his handling of the arrests of "activists and opposition members, as well as for the disproportionate use of force, such as the violent crackdown on members of the Bundu Dia Kongo (BDK) movement in Kongo Central, the repression in Kinshasa in January-February 2017 and the disproportionate use of force and violent repression in the Kasai provinces."
In renewing the sanctions, the EU extended the asset freeze and travel ban against Shadary and others.
Thursday, the Congolese election commission delayed election voting in two opposition strongholds -- Beni and Butembo -- and Yumbi until March, where the tallies will not be a part of the presidential election. The delays sparked protests in the streets of Beni and drew a police response.
The EU issued a statement this month pressing the Congolese government to make sure that all voters participate in the upcoming elections.
"It is essential that all Congolese stakeholders take part in the electoral process in a peaceful and constructive manner, with full respect for fundamental freedoms," the EU said. "In this context, the Independent National Electoral Commission has a particular responsibility to manage the next steps in the process transparently and effectively."
DRC government opposition candidate Martin Fayulu said the delays are an attempt to swing the election in Shadary's favor.