Kinshasa, DRC – The presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) scheduled on Sunday has been cancelled and will now be held a week later on December 30.
The country’s election commission on Thursday said it was not prepared to hold the elections following a fire that destroyed voting machines as well as the Ebola outbreak in the east.
“The presidential, legislative and provincial elections will, therefore, take place on December 30, 2018,” head of the Independent National Election Commission (CENI), Corneille Nangaa, said.
Last week, a fire in an election commission warehouse destroyed nearly 80 percent of the 10,000 voting machines in the capital, Kinshasa.
Nangaa said officials have found enough voting machines for Kinshasa but had to get five million new ballots printed. He appealed to the country’s 46 million voters for calm.
DRC’s elections, postponed repeatedly since 2016, are meant to choose a successor to President Joseph Kabila, who is due to step down after 18 years in power.
The DRC has not seen a peaceful transition of power since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.
The cancellation of Sunday’s vote provoked anger among the opposition leaders in the sprawling central African country, roughly the size of Western Europe.
Martin Fayulu, 62, from the opposition coalition, Lamuka, and one of the frontrunners, alleged the election commission is trying to keep Kabila in power.
“They tried all kinds of manoeuvres to not have the election, so that Mr Kabila can remain in power forever. But we are fed up. They have to go,” Fayulu told Al Jazeera.
“They did not want to hold the election. They were not ready,” he said.
But Claude Mashala, who is the national secretary of the ruling People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD), said the coalition has “full confidence in the electoral commission”.
“Our electoral commission is independent. We are satisfied with the explanation it gave for the delay,” he said.
“The most important thing is elections must be held. We are sure that will happen.”
Kinshasa-based political analyst Robert Tshombela said the latest delay in holding the elections was “predictable”.
“The government was very proud to reject international community’s assistance in organising the election on time,” he told Al Jazeera.
“It [the delay] will lead to accusations that free and fair election will not be held. The electoral commission has not done its job properly,” he said.
Meanwhile, the University of Kinshasa campus in the capital was sealed off by security forces following the announcement of the delay in the elections.
Earlier on Thursday, students of the university had protested in the capital, asking for the polls to be held as scheduled this Sunday.
The campaign this year has been foreshadowed by violence with several opposition supporters killed in clashes with the security forces.