On Thursday, December 27, the Lamuka opposition coalition called for a nationwide strike to be held on Friday, December 28, to denounce the postponement of presidential and legislative elections in Beni and Butembo (North Kivu province) due to an ongoing Ebola outbreak, as well as in Yumbi (Mai-Ndombe province) due to recent intercommunal clashes. Opposition parties have also called for demonstrations to be organized in urban areas throughout the country, notably in Beni, Butembo, and Yumi. A heightened security presence is likely around any demonstration. Clashes between supporters and security forces cannot be ruled out.
Also on Thursday, demonstrators rallied in Beni, Butembo, and Goma. In Beni, protesters erected barricades and clashed with security forces near the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) building. According to local sources, police officers used teargas and fired warning shots to disperse the crowd.
On a related note, in anticipation of unrest surrounding the presidential election, the US and UK governments have already ordered all non-emergency personnel to depart the country and are continuing to advise their respective citizens to avoid nonessential travel to the DRC until the situation stabilizes. Remaining US government employees in the DRC are subject to a nightly curfew from 19:00 to 06:00 (local time) until further notice.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) announced on December 20 that general elections originally scheduled for December 23 were postponed to December 30, notably due to a fire that reportedly destroyed 80 percent of the voting machines in Kinshasa on December 13. On December 26, CENI announced that the elections in Beni, Butembo, and Yumi, had been postponed to March 2019.
As a security precaution, Congolese authorities had previously announced that land borders would close for 24 hours on election day and an increased security presence would be deployed throughout major urban centers and at polling stations. Multiple clashes have erupted during political events held ahead of the elections, notably in Kalemie, Lubumbashi, Tshikapa, Kindu, and Mbuji-Mayi. At least seven people have reportedly been killed by security forces over the course of the campaign period.
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.
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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