The Democratic Republic of Congo’s opposition will be allowed to hold a Kinshasa rally on Friday to protest against voting machines they fear will permit fraud in December’s key election, an opposition official said.
Political tensions are rising in the DRC before the long-delayed December 23 election to select a successor to President Joseph Kabila, who bowed to international pressure this year to step aside after nearly two decades in power.
Kabila last month promised at the United Nations the vote would go ahead and that he would take steps to guarantee a credible ballot. But the months before he said he would step aside were marked by protests that were brutally repressed, costing dozens of lives.
Critics worry Kabila is trying to ensure his favoured successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a hardline former interior minister, faces no serious challenger. They fear the South Korean-made voting machines will allow fraud.
Election officials say the machines will cut costs and protect against vote-rigging.
Opposition leader Vital Kamerhe, one of the 21 candidates for the presidency, said opposition representatives had been summoned on Wednesday by Kinshasa local authorities to organise security for the march on Friday.
“We will hold a rally without precedent to show to the world that the opposition wants elections on December 23 2018, but elections that are credible, free and transparent,” said Kamerhe, UNC opposition party president.
Emmanuel Akweti, a local Kinshasa government official, confirmed the meeting to organise Friday’s march.
Western powers are watching election developments closely as the vast mineral-rich African state attempts its first peaceful transition of power since independence from colonial Belgium in 1960.
Conflict involving various militias, rebel groups and government forces also continues in North Kivu province on the country’s eastern border.
Fragmented Congolese opposition parties will hold meetings in Johannesburg this week to try to unite behind a single candidate after the exclusion of two heavyweight contenders: former warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba and regional baron Moise Katumbi both enjoy large popular backing.