DRC further delays Dec 30 poll in two conflict zones

The Democratic Republic of the Congo on Wednesday announced that key elections due to take place nationwide on December 30 would be postponed to March in two regions troubled by violence.

However, the delay will not affect the nationwide timetable for the presidential ballot, which is being held alongside legislative and provincial elections, the national election commission CENI said.

The polls, already postponed three times, are due to bring the curtain down on the era of President Joseph Kabila, in charge of the mineral-rich country for nearly 18 turbulent years.

“The elections in the Beni region and the cities of Beni and Butembo in North Kivu province as well as Yumbi in the (southwest) Mai-Ndombe province initially scheduled for December 30 will now be held in March,” CENI said.

The triple elections were due to have been held last Sunday after a long period of political uncertainty.

But national election supervisors ordered a week-long postponement, blaming a warehouse fire that destroyed voting machines and ballot papers earmarked for Kinshasa.

Opposition candidates are concerned over the use of the electronic voting machines, which they fear will allow massive fraud. Electoral authorities say the machines will make the ballot more efficient.

The final results of the presidential vote will be published on January 15, and the next president will be sworn in on January 18, CENI said, without explaining how this would dovetail with the delayed vote in the troubled regions.

The DRC, the second biggest country in Africa, has a long history of political turbulence and violence.

It has never had a peaceful transition of power since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

In 1996-1997 and from 1998-2003, it became the theatre of two wars that left millions of dead and homeless and sucked in countries from around central and southern Africa.

Wars are unfolding in the east, where militia groups are carrying out bloody attacks.

The CENI statement pointed in particular to North Kivu, in the grip of “a terrorist threat” and “a dangerous, ongoing epidemic of Ebola virus” in the areas of Beni and Butembo.

At the other end of the country, in Yumbi territory, violence this month had caused an exodus and led to the destruction of election equipment, it said.

© Agence France-Presse

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