On Wednesday, December 19, the governor of the Kinshasa ordered the suspension of political campaign events in the capital ahead of the December 23 presidential vote, due to security concerns over potential unrest. According to the order, candidates are allowed to continue media campaigns in Kinshasa through the end of the official camping period on December 21. Nevertheless, political rallies may take place in other urban centers across the country.
Supporters of the presidential candidate of the Lamuka opposition coalition, Martin Fayulu, have reportedly gathered at the Place Sainte Therese, located in the N'djili district of Kinshasa, despite the ban. The candidate had previously scheduled the rally for the afternoon (local time) of Wednesday. As such, heightened security measures are expected in the area. Clashes between rival political supporters, as well as between supporters and security forces, cannot be ruled out.
On a related note, in anticipation of unrest surrounding the presidential 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 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. As a security precaution, Congolese authorities have announced that land borders will be closed for 24 hours on election day. 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. 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, and at least 80 people were wounded in clashes in Tshikapa on December 16. 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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