DRC elections postponed again

The elections in Democratic Republic of Congo, scheduled for Sunday, have been postponed for a week. The polls were originally meant to take place by the end of 2016 as President Joseph Kabila came to the end of his second term in office.

Last week there was a fire at a centre storing controversial voting machines and ballot papers and the new delay is being blamed on the need to print new ballot papers which have yet to arrive.

I understand that there are also issues with the training of poll workers and other essential materials which may not be ready. There is also concern about how ballot materials will be distributed to polling stations in a country with little road infrastructure and a shortage of official vehicles.

However, any delay risks inciting violence as opposition supporters believe postponements are being provoked in order to allow President Kabila to remain in power.

According to The Guardian:

Local media reported CENI (the electoral commission) had cited three reasons for the delay: the deaths of more than 100 people in ethnic violence in the north-west this week, an outbreak of Ebola in the east and a shortfall in the number of ballot papers it had been able to distribute.

The DRC refused international assistance with the organisation of the election. This was despite the massive logistical challenge of a poll in a violent, unstable country the size of western Europe that has no proper road or rail system and a population of about 80 million people.

Campaigning has already been banned in Kinshasa because of concerns about violence.

If violence does erupt in the wake of the postponement, it may lead to further delays.

Both SADEC and the African Union have observation missions in DRC for the polls and the UN has a significant presence in the country.