DR Congo further delays Dec 30 poll in two conflict zones

Kinshasa: DR Congo on Wednesday announced that key elections due to take place nationwide on December 30 would be postponed to March in two regions troubled by violence.
But those delays will not affect the timetable for the presidential ballot, which is being held alongside legislative and provincial elections, the national election commission CENI said.
Already postponed three times, the elections are due to bring the curtain down on the era of President Joseph Kabila, in charge of the vast mineral-rich country for nearly 18 turbulent years.
“The elections in the Beni region and the cities of Beni and Butembo in North Kivu province as well as Yumbi in the (southwest) Mai-Ndombe province initially scheduled for December 30 will now be held in March,” CENI said.
The “final results” of the presidential vote will still be published on January 15, and the next president will be sworn in on January 18, CENI said.
It did not explain how this would dovetail with the outcome of the vote that would take place much later in the troubled regions.
A total of 1,256,117 voters — roughly three per cent of the nationwide electoral roll — will be affected by the delay.
But CENI ordered a week-long postponement, blaming a warehouse fire that destroyed voting machines and ballot papers earmarked for Kinshasa. Two and a half times bigger than France and Germany combined, the Democratic Republic of Congo has a long history of political turmoil and violence.
It has never had a peaceful transfer of power since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960.
In 1996-1997 and 1998-2003 it became the theatre of two wars that left millions of dead and homeless and sucked in countries from around central and southern Africa.
Memories of the conflict haunt the region still.
In Brazzaville, the capital of the neighbouring Republic of Congo, eight countries met on Wednesday to discuss the situation in the DRC.
The summit gathered Angola, Botswana, Congo, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia, although there was no DRC envoy.
Smaller conflicts are also unfolding in the east of the country, where swathes of the countryside are in the grip of brutal militias.
The CENI statement pointed in particular to parts of North Kivu province, affected by “a terrorist threat” and “a dangerous, ongoing epidemic of the Ebola virus” in the areas of Beni and Butembo.
Since 2014, hundreds of civilians have been killed in attacks attributed to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a shadowy rooted group that arose in western Uganda in 1995.
— AFP