20°C / 22°C
  • Mon
  • 21°C
  • 9°C
  • Tue
  • 21°C
  • 10°C
  • Wed
  • 20°C
  • 10°C
  • Thu
  • 19°C
  • 8°C
  • Fri
  • 18°C
  • 6°C
  • Mon
  • 19°C
  • 14°C
  • Tue
  • 15°C
  • 10°C
  • Wed
  • 14°C
  • 9°C
  • Thu
  • 15°C
  • 11°C
  • Fri
  • 18°C
  • 9°C
  • Mon
  • 23°C
  • 10°C
  • Tue
  • 24°C
  • 11°C
  • Wed
  • 23°C
  • 10°C
  • Thu
  • 22°C
  • 8°C
  • Fri
  • 20°C
  • 8°C
  • Mon
  • 22°C
  • 7°C
  • Tue
  • 22°C
  • 6°C
  • Wed
  • 23°C
  • 7°C
  • Thu
  • 22°C
  • 5°C
  • Fri
  • 20°C
  • 3°C
  • Mon
  • 25°C
  • 16°C
  • Tue
  • 23°C
  • 16°C
  • Wed
  • 19°C
  • 15°C
  • Thu
  • 21°C
  • 13°C
  • Fri
  • 20°C
  • 12°C
  • Mon
  • 21°C
  • 14°C
  • Tue
  • 16°C
  • 9°C
  • Wed
  • 14°C
  • 8°C
  • Thu
  • 15°C
  • 10°C
  • Fri
  • 18°C
  • 10°C
  • Mon
  • 17°C
  • 10°C
  • Tue
  • 13°C
  • 5°C
  • Wed
  • 15°C
  • 4°C
  • Thu
  • 15°C
  • 5°C
  • Fri
  • 19°C
  • 6°C
  • Mon
  • 18°C
  • 12°C
  • Tue
  • 14°C
  • 8°C
  • Wed
  • 14°C
  • 6°C
  • Thu
  • 14°C
  • 8°C
  • Fri
  • 18°C
  • 7°C
  • Mon
  • 24°C
  • 9°C
  • Tue
  • 25°C
  • 9°C
  • Wed
  • 25°C
  • 9°C
  • Thu
  • 24°C
  • 7°C
  • Fri
  • 22°C
  • 6°C
  • Mon
  • 23°C
  • 3°C
  • Tue
  • 22°C
  • 5°C
  • Wed
  • 23°C
  • 4°C
  • Thu
  • 15°C
  • 1°C
  • Fri
  • 18°C
  • 0°C
  • Mon
  • 27°C
  • 8°C
  • Tue
  • 32°C
  • 8°C
  • Wed
  • 19°C
  • 9°C
  • Thu
  • 29°C
  • 8°C
  • Fri
  • 20°C
  • 7°C
  • Mon
  • 19°C
  • 13°C
  • Tue
  • 15°C
  • 7°C
  • Wed
  • 12°C
  • 6°C
  • Thu
  • 14°C
  • 9°C
  • Fri
  • 17°C
  • 8°C

Pre-election strike call fizzles in DRC

Lamuka, a coalition of parties supporting opposition candidate Martin Fayulu, called for cities to be brought to a standstill in protest at a fresh organisational blow to the vote.

FILE: Electoral banners are displayed in the Ndjili district of Kinshasa on 19 December 2018, after campaigning for Democratic Republic of Congo's general elections was called off in Kinshasa by the authorities on security grounds. Picture: AFP.

KINSHASA - A protest called by the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) opposition appeared to fizzle out on Friday, two days before presidential elections that have stoked tensions in the giant central African state.

Lamuka, a coalition of parties supporting opposition candidate Martin Fayulu, called for cities to be brought to a standstill in protest at a fresh organisational blow to the vote.

But the appeal appeared to have little support, judging from the capital Kinshasa and the country’s second city, Lubumbashi, where traffic and commercial activities were normal, AFP reporters said.

In the eastern province of North Kivu, police in Butembo used teargas to disperse a crowd of several hundred protestors.

And in the provincial capital of Goma, a small group of youths faced off with police in the rundown district of Majengo, where two markets were closed.

Delayed several times, the election will be the Democratic Republic of Congo’s first presidential ballot in seven years.

PROBLEMS

But on Wednesday, the national election panel announced the vote - also being held at municipal and legislative level - would be postponed in several troubled areas, including parts of North Kivu, until March.

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

No explanation has been offered as to whether or how the delayed vote will affect the official outcome, and legal experts say the postponement is unconstitutional.

Around 1.25 million people, out of a national electoral roll of 40 million, are affected.

At stake on Sunday is the future of one of Africa’s most volatile countries - a battleground for two regional wars in the past 22 years but also a treasure trove of minerals from gold and uranium to copper and cobalt.

The DRC gained independence from Belgium in 1960 but in the nearly 60 years since then has never had a peaceful transition of power.

President Joseph Kabila, 47, is stepping down after nearly 18 years at the helm.

He took office in 2001 at the age of just 21, succeeding his president father, Laurent-Desire, who was assassinated by a bodyguard.

But his long tenure has come under heavy fire from human rights watchdogs and anti-corruption monitors. Despite its vast potential wealth, poverty outside a tiny elite remains entrenched.

OPPOSITION FAVOURITES?

Three men are heading a field of 21 candidates in the presidential race.

They are Kabila’s hand-picked successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a hardline former interior minister; Fayulu, until recently a little-known legislator and former oil executive; and Felix Tshisekedi, head of a veteran opposition party, the UDPS.

If the elections are “free and fair,” an opposition candidate will almost certainly win, according to Jason Stearns of the Congo Research Group, based at the Center on International Cooperation at New York University.

Opinion polls indicate Fayulu is the clear favourite, garnering around 44% of voting intentions, followed by 24% for Tshisekedi and 18% for Shadary, he said.

However, “the potential for violence is extremely high,” Stearns warned.

Between 43 and 63% of respondents said they would not accept the results if Shadary is declared a winner, he said.

And between 43% and 53% said they did not trust DRC’s courts to settle any election dispute fairly.

The figure of Shadary is at the centre of a diplomatic storm between the DRC and the European Union that erupted into the open on Thursday.

Foreign Minister Leonard She Okitundu gave the EU 48 hours to withdraw its representative - retaliation for sanctions against Shadary and 13 other officials for cracking down on anti-Kabila protests.

The sanctions, imposed in early 2017 and extended on 10 December, comprise a travel ban and asset freeze for “obstruction of the electoral process and... related human rights violations”.