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DRC delays Sunday's election for months in Ebola zone

  • 26 Dec 2018

The Democratic Republic of Congo's election has been delayed for more than two years. Opposition parties have said they will not accept further delays of the vote to choose a successor to longtime President Joseph Kabila.

Democratic Republic of Congo's outgoing president Joseph Kabila speaks during an interview at the Palais de la Nation in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, December 9, 2018. ( Reuters )

The Democratic Republic of Congo's already long-delayed election set for Sunday will be postponed for months in certain communities where a deadly Ebola virus outbreak has infected hundreds of people, the country's electoral commission announced on Wednesday.

The election in Beni and Butembo in North Kivu province, and Yumbi in Mai-Ndombe province, will be in March instead, the commission's statement said.

That's long after Congo's "definitive" presidential election results are set to be announced on January 15.

TRT World's John Joe Regan reports from capital Kinshasa.

The DRC's election has been delayed for more than two years. Opposition parties have said they will not accept further delays of the vote to choose a successor to longtime President Joseph Kabila. The election already had been pushed from December 23 to Sunday after a fire in the capital, Kinshasa, destroyed voting materials.

TRT World spoke to Kris Berwouts, an author  and expert on DRC for his take on the matter.

Compounding issues contribute to insecurity

Parts of eastern DRC, where the Ebola outbreak has become the second deadliest in history, face the threat of deadly attacks from rebel groups. The insecurity has hurt efforts to contain the Ebola outbreak, which since being declared on August 1 has seen 583 cases of the virus, including more than 300 confirmed deaths.

The electoral commission cites insecurity for the latest delay. While Yumbi has no Ebola cases, according to Congo's health ministry, the commission said "deadly incidents" on December 14-15 caused massive population displacement and destroyed all election materials there when its local office was pillaged. The statement does not say who was to blame.

The new delay is sure to cause further frustration particularly in Beni, where rebel attacks have killed more than 1,500 people in the past four years. While the region has voted for Kabila in past elections, anger at the government has been rising over the persistent insecurity.

While holding the election in the Ebola zone has posed complications, authorities have said they were preparing for the vote by deploying tons of hand sanitiser for use in polling stations, where people will tap on the touchscreens of voting machines to choose candidates. Ebola is spread via the bodily fluids of infected people.

Authorities also have said people entering the polling stations will be screened for fevers.

More than 52,000 people in the region have received an experimental but promising Ebola vaccine.

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