KINSHASA – Several hundred people protested Thursday in Beni against the postponement of the general elections scheduled for Sunday in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for "risk of spread of Ebola epidemic and terrorist attacks, advanced by the Electoral Commission ".
Voters in three cities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo known as opposition strongholds will not vote in Sunday's presidential election, the electoral commission said on Wednesday citing public health and safety reasons .
They will do it in March next. Two of the cities concerned, Beni and Butembo, are located in the province of North Kivu, in the east of the country. They have been facing an Ebola outbreak since August.
The decision also applies to rural areas on the outskirts of Beni. The third city, Yumbi, in the west, is the scene of ethnic violence that left more than 100 dead last week. In total, these three districts represent more than 1.2 million voters out of a total of 40 million registered voters across the DRC.
In a statement, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced Wednesday that "direct elections in the constituencies of Beni, Beni city and Butembo city, North Kivu province, as well as Yumbi, in the province of Mai-Ndombe, (…) are scheduled for next March ".
For North Kivu, the CENI puts forward "the persistence of the epidemic of the Ebola virus disease" and "the terrorist threat that places on this region".
She points out that the movements of voters to their polling stations increase "the risk of spreading this disease and favor opportunistically terrorist attacks". For Yumbi, the commission considers that the "persistent tension does not allow the holding of peaceful elections within the allotted time".
"We are well aware that it is difficult, but this is the situation we are facing," CENI spokesman Jean-Pierre Kalamba told reporters. – Opposition denounces false pretenses – The main opposition candidate, Martin Fayulu, warned the CENI against any attempt to suspend voting in Beni and Butembo.
"The pretext of Ebola is misleading because there has been a campaign in these countries.It is yet another strategy to divert the truth of the polls," he wrote on Twitter. The presidential, legislative and regional elections, initially scheduled for November 2016, have been postponed several times, triggering violence in which dozens of people were killed.
Gunshots were heard Thursday morning in Beni where protesters gathered in front of the headquarters of the institutions and NGOs mobilized against Ebola who has made 356 dead since early August. In Goma, a city also in the east of the country, barricades were erected in Majengo, Katimbo and university neighborhoods, according to local media reports.
Tear grenades were fired by police who arrested at least six people, according to the same sources. These elections must turn a page in the DRC, which will no longer be chaired by Joseph Kabila, in power since the assassination of his father, Laurent-Désiré, in 2001.
But, at only 47 years old, Kabila indicated in an interview at the beginning of December that he intended to continue to play politics after the presidential election and that he did not exclude being a candidate again for the supreme magistracy. 2023. The final results of the presidential election will be announced on January 15 and the new president will be invested three days later.
Longing for anxiety over the violence prevailing in the country
Heads of State and Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Southern Africa (SADC) and the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) met in Brazzaville on Wednesday to discuss the situation in the DRC.
The mini-summit of the (ICGLR) and the (SADC) invited in its final communiqué all the parties concerned to show "restraint" in the run-up to the presidential election in the DRC.
Five African Heads of State called on the political class and civil society to appease and restrain, with a view to holding polls in serenity ", said the final communiqué of the mini-summit held on Wednesday evening attended by the presidents of the Republic of Congo, Angola, Zambia, Namibia, and Botswana, added the same sources.
They expressed their "deep concern" at the violence in the election campaign in some localities "of the DRC, and reaffirmed their" deep commitment to the holding of peaceful, free, democratic and transparent elections " .
After the summit, a delegation will be dispatched to Kinshasa on Thursday to brief President Joseph Kabila on the results of this subregional meeting, local media reported.