Kinshasa, DRC – The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) electoral commission has postponed Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary polls in three cities in the vast country, citing concerns over an Ebola outbreak and ethnic violence.
In a statement on Wednesday, the electoral commission CENI said voting in cities of Beni and Butembo in the eastern North Kivu province, and the city of Yumbi in western Bandundu province will take place in March next year.
In the rest of the country, voting will take place as scheduled on December 30, the statement added.
In parts of eastern DRC, an ongoing Ebola outbreak, the second largest in history, had led to calls for the vote to be delayed. More than 320 people have been killed since the latest outbreak was declared in August.
Meanwhile, ethnic violence in the western part of the country left at least 100 people dead last week.
The postponement of polls in the three cities came four days after CENI told Al Jazeera that elections would take place in the Ebola-hit parts of the country.
Since November 28, there have been more than 500 confirmed cases of Ebola in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
More than 46 million Congolese have registered to take part in the long-delayed elections.
In Beni, an opposition stronghold, many voters denounced the delay in polls, accusing CENI of denying them the right to cast their ballots.
“This is just provocation. We can’t accept this after waiting for more than two years. We are not ready to allow another delay while we continue to die on a daily basis from attacks and Ebola,” Simon Sikuli, a 34-year-old activist, told Al Jazeera by phone.
“We can’t wait to go and vote on Sunday like all other Congolese. Why more delay for Beni? We have been waiting for long and can’t afford another delay,” he added.
The DRC’s elections were first scheduled to take place in 2016. They were eventually postponed to December 23 this year, but CENI last week delayed polls to December 30.
Earlier this month, a fire destroyed one of CENI’s warehouses, damaging nearly 80 percent of the 10,000 voting machines meant for the capital, Kinshasa, where about 15 percent of the country’s electorate reside.
Esperence Kasiviro, another Beni resident, said the elections should be held despite the Ebola outbreak.
“This new delay has come just to cause people here to revolt. It’s not normal and we cannot understand what this regime wants. We have allowed them to delay up to Sunday, but not up to March,” he said.
“Enough is enough. They are not right to use Ebola as a reason to put us on hold. What if the epidemic is not off in March? We demand that elections be held here on Sunday as well.
“We have been victims for so long, and now we want to get peace back for us to develop our territory. That’s all,” Kasiviro said.
The highly-contested presidential poll is meant to choose a successor to President Joseph Kabila, who is due to step down after 18 years in power.
As many as 21 candidates are competing for the country’s top job.
The electoral commission said official results of the presidential poll will be announced on January 15.
The DRC, a country of more than 80 million people, has not seen a peaceful transition of power since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.