The Democratic Republic of Congo opened its month-long electoral campaign this Sunday amidst anxiety and doubts.
Some 44 million registered voters, out of a population of nearly 100 million, will elect a president on December 20, amid a tense political climate and fighting in the east of the country.
President Félix Tshisekedi is seeking a second term, with his allies praising his record.
“Nobody is going to intimidate us, the Congo is our homeland, the Congo is ours, if we have decided to come to the elections it is because we know that we are coming with a change,” said Fify Kawembe, Tshisekedi's Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDSP) party candidate for deputy in the city of Goma.
The opposition criticised the upcoming election as "botched".
“It's a shambles, because already part of the Congolese population won't be taking part in this national holiday, since an election in a state that claims to be a state is normally a national holiday," said opposition candidate Patrick Mundeke, who is also running for the Goma seat.
"Part of the Congo is excluded, with uncertainty hanging over the city of Goma and a large part of the Masisi territory.”
The population in the city of Goma, capital of the eastern province of North Kivu, is also worried.
_“We're worried because the M23 war is on Goma's doorstep, and what's more, this campaign isn't like the one in previous years. People are afraid, people are afraid, they think that the enemy can take advantage of this campaign to attack the town,_” said Kasereka Amani, a local resident.
Fighting between M23 rebels and militias loyal to the Congolese army has recently intensified in the eastern Congo provinces of Ituri, North and South Kivu and Tanganyika.
In total, there are a record 25,832 candidates for the legislative elections, 44,110 for the provincial bodies and 31,234 for the municipal councils, according to the Electoral Commission (Ceni).
Ceni faces the challenge of organising the vote across the country's 2.3 million square kilometers.