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Ebola-hit eastern DRC protests after new poll delay

  • 27 Dec 2018

Police use force to break demonstrations in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo over electoral commission's decision to exclude cities of Beni, Butembo and their surrounding areas from voting in Sunday's presidential election.

Protesters also attacked the office of the government agency coordinating the Ebola response in Beni before UN peacekeepers pushed them back, officials say. ( AFP )

Protesters in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo city of Beni ransacked an Ebola isolation centre on Thursday and it is possible that patients fled, Aruna Abedi, a senior health official, told Reuters.

The protests came in response to the decision by Congo's electoral commission on Wednesday to exclude the cities of Beni, Butembo and their surrounding areas from voting in Sunday's presidential election due to the Ebola outbreak and militia violence.

Protesters also attacked the office of the government agency coordinating the Ebola response in Beni before UN peacekeepers pushed them back, Abedi said. 

TRT World's Gavin Blackburn reports.

Congo expels EU ambassador

DRC on Thursday said it would expel European Union Ambassador Bart Ouvry in response to the recent renewal of EU sanctions against Congolese officials including the ruling coalition's candidate in a presidential election.

The decision, announced by the Foreign Ministry after a meeting with foreign ambassadors in Kinshasa, comes two years after sanctions were first imposed, and just three days before the long-anticipated election is due to take place.

Police officers run in Goma, on December 27, 2018, during clashes with demonstrators protesting against the postponement, announced the day before by the Congolese national committee, of the general elections in this area because of the Ebola outbreak and the mass killings of civilians in this trouble part of DRC.(AFP)

Demonstrations erupted a day after the country's national election commission announced that Sunday's nationwide vote would be postponed in several troubled areas until March.

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

TRT World spoke to Maurice Carney, Friends of the Congo Executive Director, for his take on the issue.

In the province of North Kivu, the region most affected by the decision, several hundred demonstrators gathered in the administrative district of the city of Beni.

Gunshots were heard over a roughly hour-long period, but it was unclear who was shooting or if there were any casualties.

In Goma, the provincial capital, demonstrators set up barricades in the districts of Majengo and Katimbo and at the entrance to the university.

Several hundreds of people demonstrate, on December 27, 2018 in Beni, easter, Democratic Republic of Congo, to protest against the postponement, announced the day before by the Congolese national committee, of the general elections in this area because of the Ebola outbreak and the mass killings of civilians in this trouble part of DRC.(AFP)

Teargassed and arrested

Police fired teargas and made at least half a dozen arrests, said an AFP reporter at the scene.

The election postponement applies to the cities of Beni and Butembo in North Kivu, as well as to the territory of Yumbi in the southwestern province of Mai-Ndombe.

Around three percent of some 40 million registered voters will be affected by the delay.

The announcement by the Independent National Election Commission (CENI) blamed militia violence and an outbreak of Ebola in North Kivu, and inter-communal clashes in Yumbi.

Sunday's election will be the DRC's first presidential ballot in seven years. Legislative and municipal elections are being held at the same time.

The presidential vote should have been held in 2016 when President Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001, reached a two-term limit set under the constitution.

But he remained in office, invoking a caretaker clause under the constitution.

The elections were twice postponed until a new date was set for December 23  and were then delayed by another week. CENI blamed a warehouse fire that destroyed election equipment.

The problems have fueled tensions in the DRC, one of Africa's most volatile countries, prompting concern among its neighbours, the UN and western powers.

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