DR Congo: Election campaign in Kinshasa suspended as electoral commission mulls delay
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Election campaigning in Kinshasa has been suspended just four days ahead of presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Opposition candidate martin Fayulu was expected in the capital to hold a campaign rally, but was blocked from entering the city with the authorities citing security concerns.
A statement signed by André Kimbuta, Kinshasa’s governor, said there had already been “several incidents” and “considerable” damage during the election campaigning. It said intelligence services had information on “extremists” who were preparing for confrontations in the street.
Opposition candidate Martin Fayulu had been expected in Kinshasa on Wednesday and hundreds of his supporters had gathered at Sainte-Thérèse square in the Ndjili district for a campaign rally.
“This decision by the governor is totally illegal, the governor has no reason to suspend election campaigning,” Fayulu told RFI, describing how he had been “imprisoned in his own country” through attempts to stop him campaigning.
“In any case, suspend election campaigning throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo. I decided to campaign in Kinshasa, to address the people of Kinshasa,” said Fayulu. “What are they afraid of?” he added, referring to the Congolese authorities.
Police used teargas to disperse opposition supporters, some lit fires to protest the restrictions on Fayulu’s rally. Rumours had already been circulating on Friday morning that the rally would be forbidden by authorities and it seemed as if earlier attempts to use Tata Raphaël stadium for campaigning were thwarted, despite the stadium having been booked by Fayulu’s team.
In a separate development on Wednesday, reports emerged suggesting that the country’s electoral commission may delay the polls for seven days.
An official from the electoral commission, who wanted to remain anonymous, told the AFP news agency that a fire at a warehouse last week that destroyed thousands of voting machines had set back the electoral process.
Thursday’s fire destroyed electoral materials including some 80 per cent of the South Korean-made electronic voting machines. Efforts had been made to bring electoral materials to Kinshasa and order more machines from South Korea, AFP reported.
Discussions over a possible delay of a week are ongoing, the official said, with an official decision possibly announced on Thursday.