30, December 2018
People have started voting in the presidential election in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, amid delays and reported disorganization.
On Sunday, polling staffers were setting up voting machines in stations minutes before opening.
Reuters cited a witness in the eastern city of Goma as seeing residents casting their vote, but another polling station in the city was still closed 90 minutes after polls opened at 06:00 a.m. local time (04:00 GMT).
President Joseph Kabila, who has been in power since his father’s assassination in 2001, is not standing for re-election and will step down after the vote.
Kabila’s party, the People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD), has designated former Interior Minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, 58, as its presidential candidate.
As well as Ramazani, the front-runners are Felix Tshisekedi, 55, of the mainstream opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), and Martin Fayulu, 62, a little-known lawmaker and former oil executive, who has made a late surge after being named the joint candidate for several opposition parties.
A total of 21 candidates are running in the presidential race.
United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday urged rival candidates to participate in a peaceful competition.
Guterres urged citizens to “seize this historic opportunity to participate in the consolidation of the country’s democratic institutions.”
The call for a peaceful vote came a few days after clashes between the supporters of rival candidates left at least one person dead and over 80 injured.
DR Congo is one of Africa’s most volatile countries and has never known a peaceful transition of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.
In the past 22 years, two massive wars have shaken the country, claiming many lives and sucking in armies from around Southern and Central Africa.
Lower-level conflicts are burning in the center and east of the country, which analysts say could easily flare into fully-fledged wars.