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Congo opposition areas excluded from election

December 26, 2018

Three opposition areas have been excluded from the presidential election on security and health grounds, officials said. The move is bound to inflame political tensions.

Congo voting machine
A voting machine in KinshasaImage: picture-alliance/ZUMAPRESS

The electoral commission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) said on Wednesday that it was postponing Sunday's presidential and legislative elections in three cities until next March.

Two of the cities — Beni and Butembo, located in the eastern part of the central African nation — have been dealing with an Ebola outbreak since August. The third, the southwestern city of Yumbi, was the site of ethnic violence that killed more than 100 people last week.

Read more: Opinion: DR Congo election postponement deals further blow to voter confidence

Elections, which were delayed nationwide by a week earlier this month, will go ahead as planned elsewhere in the DRC. The polls, in which voters will choose a successor to longtime President Joseph Kabila, have already been delayed for more than two years. The mineral-rich country has never had a peaceful democratic transfer of power, either as the DRC or Zaire before that.

The final results of the presidential election are set to be announced on January 15, with the new president to be sworn in on January 18. The delayed elections in Beni, Butembo and Yumbi will prevent their votes from counting in the presidential contest.

Targeting the opposition?

Beni and Butembo are known as hotbeds for opposition to Kabila, who has led the country for nearly two years. Leading opposition candidate Martin Fayulu had warned the electoral commission from further delaying elections in a tweet earlier Wednesday.

"The pretext of Ebola is fallacious because there has been campaigning in these areas. It's yet another strategy to hijack the truth of the polls," wrote Fayulu, leader of DRC's Engagement for Citizenship and Development party.

Kabila, 47, has been in power since the assassination of his father, President Laurent-Desire Kabila, in January 2001. He was elected president of the mineral-rich country in 2006 and won re-election in 2011. He was supposed to step down as president in 2016 but has continually delayed elections, exploiting a loophole in DRC's constitution that enabled him to stay in power until a successor was elected. 

Kabila announced earlier this year that he would not run in the December elections, respecting the country's rules on term limits. He has instead thrown his support behind Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, his former interior minister and a member of his People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy.

dv/kms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

Congo voting machine
A voting machine in KinshasaImage: picture-alliance/ZUMAPRESS

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