DR Congo opposition rejects new poll schedule

Mr Moise Katumbi. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

The Democratic Republic of Congo opposition has vehemently opposed the proposed December 2018 election to replace President Joseph Kabila.

The opposition insists that the besieged leader must step down by the end of this year.

"We reject the CENI calendar... what interests us right now is the departure of Kabila by December 31, 2017," Mr Augustin Kabuya, the main opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) spokesman, told Deutsche Welle news.

Opposition supremo Moise Katumbi dismissed the new calendar, which he said would prolong instability in the country.

“This predatory regime wants to prolong instability and misery of the people,” Mr Katumbi said in a Twitter handle message.

“We do not accept this fanciful calendar. Stop, Kabila must go.”

The DR Congo National Electoral Commission (CENI) on Sunday said it would organise a delayed General Election in December 2018.

CENI said the vote, initially slated for November 2016, would take place on December 23, 2018; a reverse of an earlier statement that that poll would not take place before April 2019.

President Kabila was allowed to extend his stay in power following negotiations between the government and the opposition, on condition that the election takes place before the end of this year.

The media Sunday quoted CENI spokesman Jean-Pierre Kalamba saying “direct voting” would take place on December 23, 2018, covering presidential, legislative, regional and local elections.

He further said the results of the presidential poll would not be published until December 30, 2018, with the definitive outcome not issued until January 9, 2019. The new president would take office on January 12, 2019.

The opposition has accused President Kabila of scheming to cling to power by repeatedly rescheduling elections until he could find a way to remove constitutional term limits that prevent him from standing for re-election.

But Kinshasa has argued that the poll delay was due to logistics and financial constraints.

Dozens of people died last year following clashes after President Kabila, who has been in office since succeeding his assassinated father in 2001, failed to step down at the end of what was supposed to be his final mandate according to the country’s constitution.

The country of 71 million people has not had a peaceful transfer of power since its independence from Belgium in 1960.

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