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Congo bans opposition election protest scheduled for Wednesday

DEMOCRATIC Republic of Congo’s government banned an opposition protest over last week’s chaotic national election as early results showed President Felix Tshisekedi in the lead.

Five opposition presidential candidates called the joint demonstration in the capital Kinshasa over alleged election irregularities.

But on Tuesday the government banned the event, saying it did not have a legal basis and was aimed at undermining the electoral process while the election commission was still compiling results.

“No government in the world can accept this, so we will not let it happen,” Vice Prime Minister Peter Kazadi told a press conference, referring to the protest.

The protest organisers did not immediately respond to the ban – which could exacerbate tension surrounding the Dec. 20 presidential and legislative vote that will determine whether Tshisekedi gets a second term.

Election disputes often fuel unrest in Congo and risk further destabilising Africa’s second-largest country, a major cobalt and copper producer plagued by widespread poverty and insecurity in its eastern region.

After a violent campaign, the vote itself was messy, with delayed election kit deliveries, malfunctioning equipment and disorganised voting registers.

The protest organisers have heavily criticised the decision of the election commission known as CENI to extend voting at polling stations that failed to open on election day, calling it unconstitutional and demanding a full re-run of the election.

Some independent observers also said the extension compromised the credibility of the vote.

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CENI has dismissed those concerns. It started releasing results over the weekend and its latest tally put Tshisekedi ahead of his 18 challengers, with almost 79% of around 3.2 million votes counted so far. Businessman Moise Katumbi and former energy executive Martin Fayulu were second and third respectively with about 17% and more than 1%.

But the commission has not disclosed how many of the approximately 44 million registered voters cast their ballot, nor given any indication of what the latest given figure represents about the total number of votes.

Katumbi has called for CENI’s head to resign.

By The African Mirror