After two years of postponements, the Democratic Republic of Congo has begun its campaign season for next month’s presidential elections.
President Joseph Kabila’s second consecutive term ended in 2016. He refused to step down, saying the delay was due to financial reasons and challenges in the voter enrollment system. This sparked a series of protests that left dozens dead.
Kabila has been in power since 2001 when his father was assassinated. In 2006 and 2011, presidential elections were derailed by accusations of fraud and violence after results were announced.
In a rare gesture, Felix Tshisekedi, leader of the main opposition party, Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) and Vital Kamerhe of the Congolese Nation party (UNC) agreed to an alliance Friday.
"One of our main priorities will be to restore peace and security, mostly to the eastern part of the country," Tshisekedi said at the news conference.
Congo's influential conference of Catholic bishops warned this week that an Ebola epidemic and clashes with rebel militia in eastern Congo could threaten the validity of the vote, Reuters reports.
"We must do everything to avoid a parody of an election whose results would not be accepted and which would, moreover, plunge our country into violence," the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) said in a statement.
In order to ensure valid electoral results, CENCO said that the electoral commission must make sure ballots are counted manually after they are printed by the machines.
The elections are due to be held Dec. 23.