DR Congo opposition plans election protest despite government ban

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Congolese presidential candidate Martin Fayulu gives a speech during a campaign rally in Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, on November 30, 2023 [Alexis Huguet/AFP]

Five opposition candidates had announced their intention to march, calling the DRC election a fraud.

Opposition candidates in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s presidential election in which early results show the incumbent with a large lead, plan to march in the capital on Wednesday, despite authorities banning the protest.

Five opposition presidential candidates informed the governor of Kinshasa in a letter published on Saturday of their intention to organise the march.

Afterwards, Martin Fayulu, one of the main challengers to President Felix Tshisekedi in the December 20 election, had said the opposition candidates who had called the joint demonstration over alleged election irregularities would proceed with the march because they were convinced the vote was a fraud.

“We are going to protest because we can’t accept another electoral coup d’etat,” Fayulu told Reuters by telephone.

He was speaking hours after interior minister Peter Kazadi said the march had no legal basis and was aimed at undermining the work of the election commission which was still compiling results.

“No government in the world can accept this, so we will not let it happen,” Kazadi told a news conference, adding that the opposition should wait for the full results rather than protest.

Election disputes often fuel unrest in the DRC and risk further destabilising Africa’s second-largest country, a major cobalt and copper producer plagued by widespread poverty and insecurity in its eastern region.

After a violent campaign, the vote itself was messy, with delayed election kit deliveries, malfunctioning equipment and disorganised voting registers.

The protest organisers have criticised the decision of the election commission to extend voting at polling stations that failed to open on election day, calling it unconstitutional and demanding a full rerun of the election.

Some independent observers also said the extension compromised the credibility of the vote. Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, archbishop of the Catholic Church in the DRC, has called the process a “gigantic disorganised disorder”.

CENI has acknowledged there were delays on December 20 but denies that the credibility of the election was compromised by the extension.

It started releasing results over the weekend, and its latest tally on Tuesday put Tshisekedi before his 18 challengers, with almost 79 percent of about 6.1 million votes counted so far.

Businessman Moise Katumbi and former energy executive Fayulu were second and third respectively with about 14 percent and more than 4 percent of the vote.

The commission has not disclosed how many of the approximately 44 million registered voters cast ballots, nor given any indication of what the latest given figure represents in relation to the total number of votes.

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

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