Opposition protests can be expected from Wednesday, September 19, when the National Electoral Commission (CENI) is expected to release the definitive list of candidates in the upcoming December 23 presidential and legislative elections, until Friday, September 21. Protests are likely as several key candidates will be excluded from the lists. Separately, supporters of non-running opposition leader Moïse Katumbi are planning to march on Wednesday in the capital Kinshasa. The demonstration is set to begin at Marché de la Liberté and end at the CENI headquarters, located in the upscale district of La Gombe. Civil society groups will also be organizing a sit-in protest on the same day from 10:00 (local time) at the Hôtel du Gouvernement, the seat of several ministries, in Kinshasa. Related protests are also likely in Lubumbashi, capital of Haut-Katanga, Katumbi's native province.
Additionally, the Lutte pour le Changement (LUCHA) movement is expected to stage nationwide demonstrations on Wednesday to commemorate the deaths of dozens of demonstrators who were killed by police during opposition protests in Kinshasa in September 2016. On Thursday, September 20, LUCHA supporters are planning to stage peaceful marches and sit-ins to protest the use of election machines and alleged "fake voters." Similar protests and demonstrations are expected on Friday, particularly in Kinshasa. A heightened security presence and localized traffic disruptions are to be expected near protest sites. Clashes between protesters and security forces cannot be ruled out.
Notably, opposition protesters, calling for Katumbi to be permitted to run for president in December, staged a protest outside the Constitutional Court in Kinshasa on September 18 that was forcibly dispersed by police.
Opposition supporters and civil society activists have been accusing the government of excluding key opposition candidates, such as Katumbi, who was prevented from entering the DRC to register as a candidate, and Jean-Pierre Bemba, 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. Though these charges have since been dropped, Bemba still faces charges of witness tampering. Furthermore, inconsistencies remain in the electoral register, including 6 million registered voters without digital fingerprints, casting doubts on the reliability of the register for transparent elections.
Travelers in the DRC should carefully monitor developments related to the upcoming elections and avoid all gatherings due to the risk of unrest. On days of protests, plan routes circumventing demonstrations.
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