Opposition supporters reject delay to DRC elections

Opposition supporters reject delay to DRC elections

December 21, 2018

Protesters in capital call for the resignation of the president if elections aren’t held on Sunday.

    Kinshasa, DRC – Angry opposition supporters gathered outside their party headquarters in the Congolese capital Kinshasa on Friday, hours after the electoral commission delayed Sunday’s scheduled poll by a week.

    The electoral commission (CENI) said late Thursday the long-delayed poll will not take place on December 23 due to a delay in deploying voting materials to polling stations.

    The hotly contested election, which was first scheduled to take place in 2016, will now take place on December 30.

    “For the last two years, they assured us that election will happen on time,” Jean Mbaya, UDPS supporter told Al Jazeera.

    “If the election does not happen on Sunday, CENI president and Kabila (the country’s president) must resign and go,” the 24-year-old labourer added.

    “We will no longer accept any delay. If we accept they will turn the seven-day to seven-month delay,” he added.

    The supporters, mostly young men, marched up and down the township of Limete – an opposition stronghold – shouting, “If there’s no election on the 23rd, we will kill each other” as security forces kept watch from a distance.

    “We cannot accept any delay. We have lost many friends who called for elections. We have suffered for too long,” Felly Kabambi, a tricycle driver, told Al Jazeera.

    President Joseph Kabila, who took power following the assassination of his father in 2001, was meant to step down in 2016 after serving two five-year terms in office.

    But the electoral commission said it didn’t have the resources to hold the election on time.

    Last week, a fire gutted one of the main warehouses of the electoral body in the capital destroying two-thirds of the polling materials for Kinshasa.

    Kinshasa is home to about 15 percent of the more than 46 million registered voters in the vast mineral-rich country.

    CENI said it had ordered five million ballots papers from neighbouring South Africa but so far, only one million have arrived in the country. The ballots papers were to replace those destroyed in the fire, CENI added.

    The DRC’s Minister for Environment Amy Ambatobe backed the decision to delay the vote.

    “We are very happy with the commission’s decision,” he told Al Jazeera.

    “It’s not a bad move. It is good to make sure everything is in place first before elections can start.”

    The campaign period has been marked by deadly clashes between the security forces and opposition supporters.

    On Thursday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) said it will take action against anyone who commits a crime during the election period.

    Dieudonne Mushagalusa, a coordinator for civil society groups in Kinshasa, said the electoral body’s decision to postpone the vote was the right one.

    “We welcome the electoral commission’s decision and the courage they showed in telling the truth to Congolese people,” Mushagalusa told Al Jazeera.

    “The decision is the right one since its technically justified. The commission has well done to delay for seven days instead of organising wrong elections that would create trouble in the country,” he added.

    Democratic Republic Congo, a country in central Africa roughly the size of Western Europe, has never had a peaceful transfer of power since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

    Twenty-one candidates are competing for the country’s top seat.

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