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DR Congo: Voters in Lubumbashi lament long delays

Congolese police officers block an entry after voters forced their way into a voting station in Kinshasa on December 20, 2023.   -  
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JOHN WESSELS/AFP or licensors

Democratic Republic Of Congo

Voters jostled to enter polling stations on Wednesday in Lubumbashi, the second biggest city in the  Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Many said they had waited over an hour and a half for centres to open and vote to begin.

"There was a bit of a delay, we had been here for 6 hours but they just opened the office at 7:45 am, so it was that little delay that caused the chaos at the entrance," explains one voter Roland Kapiamba.

For another, "it was quiet". 'You see the atmosphere is really at its zenith. People are determined to vote and get the leaders they deserve." Gustave Mutati Mumba, national MP candidate said.

With the scheduled opening hours of 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. local time, many here say they had faced long delays that led to scrambles at the gates of a few polling centres. 

Congolese nationals living in five other countries including South Africa and Belgium will be able to cast their ballots in this election, a first for the Central African nation. But many in the troubled eastern region, up to 1.5 million people may not be able to cast their ballot due to insecurity, according to the Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Incumbent president Félix Tshisekedi is vying for a second term against 18 other candidates. During the campaign, he asked voters for five more years to “consolidate the gains”.

He also vilified the supposed "foreign candidates", suggesting that they were not "patriotic" enough in the face of the "aggressions" of which he accused in particular the Rwandan neighbor.

His main challenger, Moïse Katumbi, 58, a wealthy businessman and former governor of the mining province of Katanga (southeast), was particularly targeted by his attacks.

Other presidential candidates include Martin Fayulu, 67, who claims victory was stolen from him in the 2018 presidential election, and Dr Denis Mukwege, 68, Nobel Peace Prize winner for his work with women victims of war rape.

Some 44 million people are registered for the vote in the single-round election, where they are also choosing parliamentary, provincial and municipal representatives.  Results are not expected until several days after the vote.

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