DR Congo opposition rejects new timetable for polls to replace Kabila

Democratic Republic of the Congo's President Joseph Kabila (2nd R) and First Lady Marie Olive Lembe attend the anniversary celebrations of Congo's independence from Belgium in Kindu, the capital of Maniema province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, June 30, 2016. REUTERS/Kenny Katombe
Democratic Republic of the Congo’s President Joseph Kabila (2nd R) and First Lady Marie Olive Lembe attend the anniversary celebrations of Congo’s independence from Belgium in Kindu, the capital of Maniema province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, June 30, 2016. REUTERS

Democratic Republic of Congo’s main opposition parties have rejected a new date for elections announced at the weekend to replace President Joseph Kabila, saying it violates the law and a political deal agreed with the government.

On Sunday the electoral commission announced  that the long-awaited presidential elections to replace President Joseph Kabila would take place on December 23, 2018..

The results of the December 2018 vote will be published on January 9, 2019, and the president to be sworn in on January 13.

The country’s election  which were initially  scheduled for late 2016, have repeatedly been cancelled. Following several rounds of deadly protests, Kabila’s camp and his opponents signed an accord last December agreeing to hold the election before the end of this year.

A statement from opposition leader, Felix Tshisekedi’s said that the calendar presented by the Independent Electoral Commision violates the constitution, the December 2016 accord and electoral law, Reuters reports.

Dozens died in protests against Kabila’s refusal to step down at the end of his constitutional mandate last December.

Unrest sparked by the uncertainty surrounding the polls has raised fears Congo could witness a repeat of the kind of violence that killed millions around the turn of the last century, mostly from hunger and disease.

After the Commission said last month that the vote could only take place in April 2019 at the earliest, the opposition warned that the population would “take matters into its own hands”.

“The opposition leaders call upon all the Congolese people to be vigilant and mobilized in the aim of freeing up the electoral process by Dec. 31, 2017,” Tuesday’s Rassemblement statement said.

It nonetheless went on to state that the coalition believed it was possible to hold the vote by June 30 next year at the latest.