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DRC presidential elections postponed to 30 December

Since voting on Christmas Day is out of the question, it was decided to postpone the exercise until the end of this month.

Picture: Pixabay.com

PRETORIA - Presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been delayed for a week.

The country's electoral commission (Ceni) says a fire in its warehouse last week has made it impossible to hold the poll on Sunday as scheduled.

The country's 46 million voters will now cast their ballots on 30 December.

The delay in the elections, already more than two years late, has displeased many of the 21 presidential candidates.

They're saying it is driven more by politics than logistics.

Electoral commission head Corneille Nangaa says voting machines to replace the 8,000 destroyed in the fire will arrive at the weekend. It will take at least three days to align them with the existing machines.

Since voting on Christmas Day is out of the question, it was decided to postpone the exercise until the end of this month.

“UNACCEPTABLE” DELAY

Many Congolese hope the election can help draw a line under decades of conflict and economic stagnation.

Millions died in two wars around the turn of the century and dozens of militia remain active near the eastern borders, where they fight over ethnic rivalries and natural resources.

Earlier on Thursday, opposition candidate Martin Fayulu, one of the frontrunners, told Reuters it would be unacceptable for the election to be pushed back.

“The Ceni president said there will be an election, rain or shine, on 23 December,” Fayulu said. “We cannot accept a change of [President of Congo's National Independent Electoral Commission (Ceni), Corneille] Mr. Nangaa’s position today.”

Explaining the Ceni’s decision, Nangaa said 5 million additional ballot papers had been ordered from the provider in South Korea to replace those destroyed in Kinshasa, but only 1 million had arrived so far.

The last of the ballot papers are scheduled to arrive on Saturday night.

The postponement caps a chaotic week, which saw more than 100 people killed in fights between ethnic groups in northwestern Congo and clashes between police and opposition supporters in Kinshasa.

Those protests erupted after Kinshasa’s governor ordered a halt to campaigning over security fears.

International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda warned in a statement on Thursday that her office would not hesitate to take action if large-scale crimes were committed around the elections.

Campaigning had been due to end at midnight on Friday in what has boiled down to a race between Kabila’s preferred successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, and two main challengers, Fayulu and Felix Tshisekedi.

Shadary has a big advantage due to sizeable campaign funds and ruling party control of many media outlets.

However, a rare national opinion poll in October had Tshisekedi leading the race with 36%, well ahead of Shadary’s 16%. Fayulu had 8%.