DR Congo sets March date for governors’ vote, as opposition plans anti-Kabila strike

Rivals says the crowded election programme will be used to postpone November’s presidential vote and allow Kabila to remain in power

THE Democratic Republic of Congo’s government said gubernatorial elections will take place in March, as opposition parties called for a general strike next week to protest what they say are efforts by President Joseph Kabila to hang on to power.

Voting for governors and deputy governors in 21 of the country’s 26 provinces will be held March 26, the Independent National Electoral Commission, known by its French acronym CENI, said in a statement e-mailed from the capital, Kinshasa. Congo is the world’s biggest source of cobalt, used to make rechargeable batteries, and Africa’s largest copper and tin miner.

“The CENI has received a firm engagement from the government to fund the election of governors and vice governors,” it said.

The indirect gubernatorial ballot was supposed to be part of a series of about a dozen elections scheduled to take place between October 2015 and November 2016, culminating in a vote for a new president. Dates for the election of provincial assembly members, senators and local government representatives have also been missed.

A comprehensive revised election calendar has yet to be published even after requests from donors and opposition parties.

New governors are required following a decentralisation process last year, in which 21 new provinces were created. Since a September Constitutional Court ruling that the government could take “exceptional measures” to maintain “peace and security” in the new provinces, they have been run by directly appointed special commissioners.

Opposition fears

The opposition says that decentralisation process and the crowded election programme will be used to postpone November’s presidential election and allow Kabila to remain in power. Kabila won elections in 2006 and 2011 and the constitution bars him from running for a third term.

Opposition parties including La Dynamique and G7 yesterday called for students and workers to stay at home Feb. 16 to protest against the electoral process.

“Democracy is threatened and the electoral process has been deliberately delayed,” Charles Mwando Simba, spokesman for the opposition coalition, told reporters Wednesday in Kinshasa.

-Bloomberg

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