Protests in eastern DR Congo against new election delay

Thursday December 27 2018

Protesters gather near the electoral commission

Protesters gather near the electoral commission in Beni during a demonstration against the postponement of the DR Congo elections in the territory and the city of Butembo on December 27, 2018. PHOTO | AFP 

By AFP
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Police fired teargas and shots were heard as hundreds of people in eastern DR Congo protested on Thursday at a move to delay upcoming elections in their region, an AFP reporter said.

Demonstrations erupted a day after the Democratic Republic of Congo's national election commission announced that Sunday's nationwide vote would be postponed in several troubled areas until March.

However, the vote will continue to take place in the rest of the country as scheduled, and the next president will be sworn in on January 18, it said.

In the province of North Kivu, the region most affected by the decision, several hundred demonstrators gathered in the administrative district of the city of Beni.

Was shooting

Gunshots were heard over a roughly hour-long period, but it was unclear who was shooting or if there were any casualties.

In Goma, the provincial capital, demonstrators set up barricades in the districts of Majengo and Katimbo and at the entrance to the university.

Police fired teargas and made at least half a dozen arrests, said an AFP reporter at the scene.

The election postponement applies to the cities of Beni and Butembo in North Kivu, as well as to the territory of Yumbi in the southwestern province of Mai-Ndombe.

Around three percent of some 40 million registered voters will be affected by the delay.

The constitution

The announcement by the Independent National Election Commission (Ceni) blamed militia violence and an outbreak of Ebola in North Kivu, and inter-communal clashes in Yumbi.

Sunday's election will be the DRC's first presidential ballot in seven years. Legislative and municipal elections are being held at the same time.

The presidential vote should have been held in 2016 when President Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001, reached a two-term limit set under the constitution.

But he remained in office, invoking a caretaker clause under the constitution.

The elections were twice postponed until a new date was set for December 23 -- and were then delayed by another week. Ceni blamed a warehouse fire that destroyed election equipment.

The problems have fuelled tensions in the DRC, one of Africa's most volatile countries, prompting concern among its neighbours, the UN and western powers.

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