Global

Congo election unrest spikes; European Union ambassador ordered to leave

Congo election unrest spikes; European Union ambassador ordered to leave

More than 100 people are protesting a presidential election delay in eastern Congo, blamed on a deadly Ebola outbreak. Some protesters set up blazing street barricades and attacked an Ebola isolation center, with almost 20 patients fleeing.

The electoral commission (CENI) announced the vote cancellation in the two cities on Wednesday due to an ongoing Ebola outbreak and militia violence.

On Dec 5, Health Minister Oly Ilunga said the Ebola outbreak - declared in August and the second-worst in history - would not interfere with elections, noting that voter registration elsewhere in Congo previous year had not been interrupted by a separate outbreak.

However the vote will continue to take place in the rest of the country as scheduled on December 30, and the next president will be sworn in on January 18, the commission said.

The reasons given for the latest delay aren't credible, Fayulu said.

The vast central African state is rich in mineral resources and is the world's leading producer of cobalt, used to power mobile phones and electric cars.

A new opinion poll for the presidential election in Democratic Republic of Congo says opposition candidate Martin Fayulu of the Lamuka coalition, has become the clear favourite to win, ahead of Felix Tshisekedi and the government-backed Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.

"The composition of the electoral commission does not give any advantages to any one component - meaning you have the majority (ruling party), you have the opposition which is represented in the commission, and of course the civil society", he said.

Last week the election was pushed back to December 30 due to a lack of ballot papers in the capital Kinshasa. Furious opposition leaders called the situation "unacceptable" and said the delayed, ultimately meaningless election will effectively disenfranchise over a million voters.

Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. Pic credit BBC
Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. Pic credit BBC

"On the eve of very challenging elections in DRC, such a decision can only be considered counterproductive", the spokesman added, referring to the abbreviation of the country's formal name, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Kabila has said he is stepping aside after the election, which has been delayed for more than two years amid sometimes deadly protests.

The protesters had gathered in Beni, capital of the North Kivu province, to demonstrate against the postponement of elections.

But opposition parties described the delay as a ploy to gag a stronghold of support.

Protesters said life had continued in the outbreak zone, with schools open, people going to church and candidates holding campaign rallies.

Until this week, the Ebola outbreak declared on August 1 had been a challenge, but not a barrier, to the election.

Electoral officials have postponed voting in three cities until March, citing insecurity and Ebola concerns. Health officials have said precautions were in place to allow voting.

"In addition to being a crime, these serious acts unnecessarily expose the entire community to a greater spread of the Ebola outbreak".

Health teams could barely deploy on Thursday and no Ebola vaccinations could be carried out, it said.

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