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News > World

DR Congo: Opposition Calls for Strike Over Election Delay

  • Supporters of Congolese joint opposition Presidential candidate Martin Fayulu, carry an election number 4 during protests over their exclusion from the election in Beni.

    Supporters of Congolese joint opposition Presidential candidate Martin Fayulu, carry an election number 4 during protests over their exclusion from the election in Beni. | Photo: Reuters

Published 28 December 2018

What was seen as being the first time the country would see a democratic transition of power has now dissolved into political and social unrest.

An opposition bloc of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) called for a general strike Friday in resistance to the government’s decision to postpone elections in three areas of the country -- all of which are considered opposition strongholds -- until March 2019.

Congo Demands Departure of EU Ambassador Ahead of Elections

Meanwhile, elections in the rest of the country, which had already been delayed once, are still expected to take place as planned on Sunday.

Protests flared for a second straight day in eastern cities in response to the decision to cancel voting in Beni and Butembo in the east and Yumbi in the west, which demonstrators see as voter suppression from the government, rather than as a precaution due to an Ebola outbreak and militia violence as has been suggested.

In the eastern city of Goma, police fired tear gas during a standoff with protesters while demonstrators in Butembo barricaded streets and set fires at crossroads, local police said.

Lucha, an activist group, said that police had arrested 18 of their members during the protest in Butembo. The police confirmed that arrests had been made but did not confirm how many.

The election was intended to bring about the first democratic transition of power in DR Congo, but a chaotic election day on Sunday could spark renewed violence -- which would fall in line with the aftermath of 2006 and 2011 elections.

Last week the election was pushed back to Dec. 30 due to a lack of ballot papers in the capital Kinshasa after a fire destroyed voting materials. At the time, the national electoral commission (CENI) said preparations would be complete by the new date.

However, with two days to go before the elections, only about 60 percent of election materials -- including sheets to chart the votes -- have been delivered to balloting stations across the country, three foreign diplomats told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Opposition leaders have accused authorities of trying to rig the vote in favor of the outgoing President Joseph Kabila's preferred candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, using electronic voting machines. The government has denied the claims.

"If the results sheets don't arrive on time then it means that the vote results will be transferred via the voting machine, and that is going to inflame suspicions of fraud," said one of these diplomats, who has been in recent contact with CENI officials.

CENI spokespeople have said that the announced results will be based on hand counts of print-outs from the machines - as the opposition has demanded.

The news comes just a day after the government said it would expel European Union Ambassador Bart Ouvry in response to the recent renewal of EU sanctions against Congolese officials including the ruling coalition's candidate in a presidential election.

Kabila, 47, has been in power since 2001 after taking over when his father was assassinated.

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