Protests called for by the political opposition coalition and civil society groups took place mainly in the capital Kinshasa on September 19. A sit-in held outside the Hôtel du Gouvernement, the seat of several ministries, was forcefully dispersed by the security forces, injuring at least three.
On Thursday, September 20, LUCHA civil society group supporters are planning to stage marches and sit-ins to protest the use of electronic voting machines and alleged "fake voters" reportedly present in the electoral register. Similar protests and demonstrations are expected on September 21, particularly in Kinshasa. A heightened security presence and localized traffic disruptions are to be expected. Clashes between protesters and security forces cannot be ruled out.
On September 19, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) published the officially vetted list of candidates for the December 23 presidential and legislative elections. Twenty-one candidates have been validated, though two major opposition leaders have been sidelined. These include Moïse Katumbi, leader of the Together for Change party, who was prevented by the Congolese authorities 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, who was sentenced to 12 months in prison on September 17 by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for witness tampering, a sentence which he has already served.
A political meeting is expected to be held by the opposition on September 29 to designate a unique candidate to run under the opposition umbrella.
President Kabila, whose second term officially ended in December 2016, has abided by constitutional term limits and will not be running himself. He is backing former Interior Minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.
In addition to protesting the exclusion of those two opposition leaders, concerns remain over inconsistencies in the electoral register, including 6 million registered voters without digital fingerprints, casting doubts on the reliability of the register for transparent elections. The CENI itself is profoundly contested, perceived by the opposition as being manipulated by the government, and the electronic voting machines are seen as means to tamper with the results.
Individuals 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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