AP EXPLAINS: Why groundbreaking Congo vote may stumble

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JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Wealthy within the minerals that energy the world’s cell phones and laptops, but desperately underdeveloped, Congo votes on Sunday for its first new president in practically 20 years. This could possibly be the sprawling nation’s first peaceable, democratic switch of energy.

However a last-minute determination to bar some 1 million voters due to an Ebola virus outbreak , after two years of varied election delays, has angered many. The opposition worries manipulation of controversial voting machines may make sure that President Joseph Kabila’s most well-liked successor wins. Right here’s a have a look at the troubled election.

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WHO’S RUNNING?

The three high candidates have been relative unknowns even months in the past.

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Kabila has put ahead loyalist Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary because the ruling get together candidate. The previous inside minister is below European Union sanctions for a crackdown on Congolese who protested the delayed election. Congo’s annoyance over the sanctions has worsened relations with the West, whose observers haven’t been invited to look at Sunday’s vote.

Kabila, blocked from serving three consecutive phrases, has hinted he’ll run once more in 2023, main the opposition to suspect he’ll wield energy behind the scenes till then to guard his huge wealth.

The opposition is cut up after briefly uniting behind main candidate Martin Fayulu, a businessman and lawmaker in Kinshasa, the capital. Felix Tshisekedi, son of late opposition icon Etienne and head of Congo’s most outstanding opposition get together, broke away to affix forces with the get together of Important Kamerhe, who completed third within the 2011 election.

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WHY THE LATEST UNREST?

Congo’s electoral fee made a shock determination on Wednesday to bar some 1 million folks in two japanese cities from voting on Sunday, blaming an outbreak of the lethal Ebola virus. They are going to vote as an alternative in March, months after the brand new president is inaugurated in January. The choice has been criticized as undermining the credibility of the election.

Protests erupted in Beni and Butembo as residents demand to vote with the remainder of the nation. Well being officers have mentioned precautions have been in place to permit protected voting, with electoral officers concerned. “In the event that they knew there wouldn’t be an election right here, why did they instruct candidates to marketing campaign?” one Beni protester mentioned.

The Worldwide Rescue Committee, amongst assist teams compelled to droop their work, accused Congo’s electoral fee of utilizing the outbreak “as a political ploy, placing assist employees in fast hazard.” It famous the cities have a lot of opposition supporters.

The Ebola outbreak, declared in August, is the second-deadliest in historical past and essentially the most complicated. Response employees face insurgent assaults and neighborhood resistance in a area that had by no means confronted Ebola earlier than. Residents are bitter that the federal government now claims to guard them from the virus after failing to guard them from insurgent assaults which have killed 1,500 folks in Beni alone prior to now 4 years.

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IS CONGO READY TO VOTE?

Voting machines, used for the primary time in Congo, have been questioned for months. Simply 9 p.c of the largely rural nation has electrical energy. Lots of the nation’s 40 million voters have by no means used a pc, however the electoral fee expects folks to take lower than a minute to navigate a touchscreen and choose a president and native representatives.

The opposition has requested cell phone suppliers to disable the machines’ SIM playing cards, saying they may transmit election outcomes with no transparency whereas outcomes are supposed to be printed and counted by hand.

Some Congolese observers prior to now week mentioned voting supplies nonetheless had not been delivered to polling stations. In some distant areas, machines should be carried on foot by way of bush or jungle to polling stations. Even in Kinshasa lower than 48 hours earlier than the vote, a number of folks skilled to be polling brokers informed The Related Press that they had but to see the machines.

The electoral fee insists all the things is prepared.

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Comply with Africa information at https://twitter.com/AP_Africa

The Related Press contributed to this report.

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