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Congo election set for Dec 2018 - electoral commission chief

Speaking at a news conference in the capital Kinshasa, electoral commission president Corneille Nangaa said around 43 million voters had so far been registered for the vote.

President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Joseph Kabila. Picture: United Nations Photo

KINSHASA - Congo’s electoral commission president announced on Sunday that long-awaited presidential elections to replace President Joseph Kabila would take place in December 2018.

Speaking at a news conference in Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital Kinshasa, Corneille Nangaa said around 43 million voters had so far been registered for the vote.

Repeated delays to the poll, originally scheduled for late 2016, have triggered unrest and raised fears the central African nation could slip back into the conflicts that killed millions around the turn of the century, mostly from hunger and disease.

The electoral commission had originally said last month that the presidential vote could not take place until April 2019 at the earliest, and the opposition had warned that the population would “take matters into its own hands”.

Dozens died in protests against Kabila’s refusal to step down at the end of his constitutional mandate last December.

But US envoy Nikki Haley said during a visit to meet with Kabila last month that the vote must happen in 2018 or it will lose international support.

With no imminent election in sight, a political crisis has set in that is fuelling increasing militia violence and lawlessness in Congo’s east and centre.

Kabila has ruled Congo since his father was assassinated in 2001. He says delays are owing to problems registering millions of voters across the vast, forested country.

Opponents say he is using them to eventually remove term limits that prevent him from standing again, as presidents in neighbouring Rwanda and Congo Republic have done. He denies that but has not categorically said he will step aside.