Democratic Republic of Congo goes to the polls this week in elections which could see the country emerge from 17 years of conflict-ridden rule under controversial President Joseph Kabila. Twenty-one candidates are running to replace Kabila, whose hand-picked successor Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary is one of the front-runners. At stake is the political stewardship of a mineral-rich country that has never known a peaceful transition of power since independence from Belgium in 1960. More than 40 million voters will cast their ballots on Sunday to choose a successor to 47-year-old Kabila, who has ruled the nation since the assassination of his father in 2001. In a sign of growing international concern about the risk of violence, the United States on Friday ordered its non-essential staff to leave its embassy in the capital Kinshasa.
The electoral campaign period had been mostly peaceful but at least six people were killed last week in clashes at two opposition rallies, with police blamed for much of the violence.
In a joint statement last week, the embassies of the United States, Canada, Britain and Switzerland in Kinshasa said they were deeply concerned by the loss of life.
The UN rights chief also denounced the “excessive use of force” against opposition supporters, urging Kinshasa to ensure the “essential conditions for credible elections” to be fully protected.
The aftermath of 2006 and 2011 polls — both won by Kabila — resulted in bloodshed.
Full Article: DR Congo to vote in end-of-an-era poll.