Democratic Republic of Congo’s election board on Thursday announced that it has postponed the presidential election in the country, which was earlier scheduled on Sunday, December 23, citing problems caused by a fire in an election commission warehouse that destroyed 80 percent of the voting machines in the capital, Kinshasa, earlier this month.
The voting which was first scheduled for November 2016 has been repeatedly delayed. It will now take place on December 30.
“We cannot organize general elections without the province of Kinshasa, and without the Kinois voters – who represent 10 percent of the electoral body,” Mr. Corneille Nangaa, the head of the Independent National Election Commission (CENI), told the press. “The presidential, legislative and provincial elections will, therefore, take place on December 30, 2018,” reported Reuters.
Nangaa said officials have found enough voting machines for Kinshasa but five million new ballots will need to be printed. He has appealed to the country’s 46 million voters to maintain peace and calm. Notably, campaigning has already been banned in Kinshasa in fear of arousing violence.
The voting is meant to choose a successor to President Joseph Kabila, who will be stepping down after reigning for 18 long years in what would be Congo’s first democratic transition since independence from Belgium in 1960. Kabila, who has been in power since 2001, refused to leave office at the end of his second term in 2016 and only reluctantly agreed not to stand this time around.
Martin Fayulu, one of the two leading opposition candidates, alleged the election commission’s main motive behind postponing the election is to keep Kabila in power.
“They tried all kinds of maneuvers to not have the election so that Mr. Kabila can remain in power forever. But we are fed up. They have to go,” Fayulu told Al Jazeera. “They did not want to hold the election. They were not ready.”