Campaigning for the December 23 presidential vote officially ends on Friday, December 21, with multiple political rallies planned that day, primarily in the capital Kinshasa. Tensions remain high in the run up to the weekend's scheduled vote, and clashes between rival political supporters, as well as between supporters and security forces, are possible around all election-related events in the coming days.
As a security precaution, Congolese authorities have announced that land borders will be closed for 24 hours on election day, Sunday, December 23. International flights are not affected by the order. An increased security presence will be deployed throughout major urban centers and at polling stations on the day of the vote.
Increased attacks are also a possibility in the coming days in restive areas - notably in Kasaï province (central DRC) or in North and South Kivu provinces (eastern DRC) - which could impact the ability of local authorities to successfully carry out the vote in some regions.
In anticipation of likely unrest surrounding the election, the US and UK governments have ordered all non-emergency personnel to depart the country and are advising their respective citizens to avoid nonessential travel to the DRC until the situation stabilizes. Remaining US government employees in the DRC will be subject to a daily curfew from 19:00 to 06:00 (local time) beginning December 19 until further notice.
The DRC is scheduled to hold presidential and legislative elections on December 23, which could mark the first democratic transfer of power since independence in 1960. Election results are slated to be released on December 30, and the presidential inauguration is scheduled to take place on January 12.
President Joseph Kabila, whose term ended in 2016 but who has remained in power amid repeated election delays, has endorsed Interior Minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary as the candidate of the ruling FCC (Front Commun pour le Congo) coalition. Other main candidates include Felix Tshisekedi of the CACH (Cap pour le Changement) opposition coalition party and Martin Fayulu of the Lamuka opposition coalition.
Several clashes have erupted during political events held ahead of the elections, notably in Kalemie, Lubumbashi, Tshikapa, Kindu, and Mbuji-Mayi. At least five people died on December 11-12 during campaign events in Lubumbashi and Kalemie. At least one person was killed in clashes in Mbuji-Mayi on December 13. Furthermore, a fire broke out in an Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) building in Kinshasa on December 13, reportedly destroying over two-thirds of the capital's electronic voting machines. Suspected Maï-Maï militiamen also attacked and attempted to destroy a CENI warehouse in Beni (North Kivu province) on December 16.
Individuals in the DRC are advised to monitor the political situation, avoid all protests and political demonstrations due to the risk of violence and arrest, adhere to instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments, and refrain from discussing sensitive political topics in public.
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