The National Electoral Commission (CENI) released its preliminary candidate list for the upcoming December 23 presidential election on the night (local time) of Friday, August 24. Out of the 25 nominations, 19 were selected. Excluded candidates include former Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba and former Prime Ministers Antoine Gizenga and Adolphe Muzito. The excluded candidates have until Tuesday, September 4, to appeal the CENI decision. Protests by Bemba's supporters are possible in the coming days, particularly in Kinshasa. A heightened security presence and localized traffic disruptions are to be expected near any demonstration sites. Clashes between protesters and police cannot be ruled out.
Bemba was the runner-up to current President Joseph Kabila in the 2006 election. He was arrested in Brussels in May 2008 after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes. In 2016 the ICC sentenced Bemba to 12 years in prison for war crimes committed by his militia in the Central African Republic. However, the ICC acquitted and released Bemba in June 2018 after ruling that he could not be held criminally liable for crimes committed by militiamen because he could not influence their actions.
Numerous related protests have occurred throughout the country since the August 8 deadline to submit candidacy for the presidential election, scheduled to be held on December 23.
President Joseph Kabila, whose term ended in December 2016, has announced he will not run for re-election. Kabila has come out in support of his political ally, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, who is permanent secretary of the ruling People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD). Prominent opposition leader Moïse Katumbi attempted to return to the DRC twice to register as a candidate but was turned away by immigration officials.
Individuals in the DRC, particularly in Kinshasa, should monitor the situation, maintain a high degree of situational awareness, and avoid all rallies and demonstrations due to the risk of violence.
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