Voters in three Congolese cities known as opposition strongholds will be excluded from presidential elections on security and health grounds, officials said, in a move that looks certain to inflame political tensions before Sunday’s ballot.
The national electoral commission (CENI) said an Ebola outbreak – the second-worst in history – was behind the postponement of voting until March in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo cities of Beni and Butembo and surrounding areas. It cited ethnic violence for the same delay in the western city of Yumbi.
The election is meant to lead to the first democratic transfer of power in DRC, Africa’s leading copper producer and whose conflicts have in the past destabilized the entire central part of the continent.
Kizito Bin Hangi, the president of civil society groups in Beni, told Reuters the state-controlled CENI’s decision was unjustified and that residents would start protests on Thursday to demand the vote go ahead there.