Congo opens polls for long-delayed presidential election

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KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — Scores of polling facilities had not but opened within the capital, hours after Congo’s presidential election started, the electoral fee chief confirmed Sunday, as he confronted shouts of “We wished to vote!” and annoyed folks walked away.

The election is Congo’s first likelihood to have a peaceable, democratic switch of energy since independence in 1960 as longtime President Joseph Kabila steps apart.

The chief of Congo’s electoral fee informed The Related Press that 49 voting facilities in Kinshasa had been nonetheless ready for voters lists. “We’ve printed lists for 29 of them and the remainder are being printed proper now,” Corneille Nangaa mentioned whereas hurrying from middle to middle, at instances handing out the lists himself.

Lots of of individuals waited on the Saint Raphael middle in Kinshasa’s Limete neighborhood. “We’re ready to know who is meant to vote the place,” polling official Christian Mwangalay mentioned. No less than 6,000 folks had been anticipated to vote there. Dozens of younger males determined to apply voting, piling ballots in a basket.

At stake within the election is a rustic wealthy in minerals together with these essential to the world’s smartphones and electrical vehicles, and but Congo stays desperately underdeveloped with widespread corruption and insecurity.

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Unrest had been feared after a last-minute resolution to bar an estimated 1 million folks from voting due to a lethal Ebola virus outbreak within the east. The choice has been broadly criticized as threatening the credibility of the election.

In Beni, the place voting was postponed till March, lengthy after Congo’s new chief might be inaugurated in January, a couple of hundred protesters staged mock elections. Individuals forged paper ballots and lots of sang in Swahili, “Voting is our proper and no one can cease us.”

Beni residents mentioned they and others barred in Butembo metropolis ought to have the best to have their votes counted.

Jacob Salamu, 24, and others washed their palms earlier than voting as a safety in opposition to Ebola, which is unfold by way of contaminated bodily fluids. “We would not have Ebola. Kabila is worse than Ebola,” Salamu mentioned. They may ship their voting outcomes to the electoral fee, he mentioned.

The delay has been broadly criticized as undermining the credibility of the election, whereas some well being staff have mentioned it politicizes the outbreak and places them in peril. Some protesters in Beni have attacked Ebola services.

Two major opposition candidates, Martin Fayulu and Felix Tshisekedi, are difficult Kabila’s most popular successor, former inside minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, who’s beneath sanctions from the European Union.

A rainstorm started voting day within the capital, flooding some streets. Kabila and Shadary voted collectively on the central Gombe Institute polling station.

“My message at present to my compatriots is to return and vote for his or her candidates and courageous the rain,” Kabila mentioned. Shadary known as for “peace and calm,” including “I’m very assured in victory.”

Main opposition candidate Fayulu voted on the identical polling station.

“Right now, we’re writing the tip of Kabila, the tip of distress for Congolese folks,” he mentioned as he forged his poll. “Congo will cease being the laughingstock of the world.”

Though electoral officers have estimated that folks might vote in a single minute, the method was taking a number of minutes per particular person, inflicting concern.

Congo’s 40 million registered voters are utilizing digital voting machines with contact screens for the primary time amid opposition considerations that the outcomes might be manipulated. Some Congolese observers have mentioned voting supplies didn’t attain some polling stations in time.

One polling official in Kinshasa anxious that the voting machines will run out of battery energy.

Frustration grew. “We got here to vote and there’s nothing. Could (President Joseph) Kabila go to hell,” mentioned voter Elvis Bolungu on the Limete polling station. Others simply walked away.

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Related Press author Al-Hadji Kudra Maliro contributed from Beni.

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Observe Africa information at https://twitter.com/AP_Africa

The Related Press contributed to this report.

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