Campaigning in the Democratic Republic of Congo lurches to a riotous and uncertain finish this weekend, with authorities warning that rain could still delay a historic vote in sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest country.
Should it go ahead, Monday’s vote will pit the young incumbent Joseph Kabila – whose father toppled dictator Mobutu Sese Seko – against elder statesman Etienne Tshisekedi, hailed as the “father of Congolese democracy” and standing for president for the first time.
The prize is control of a war-ravaged swathe of central Africa, home to $24 trillion (£16 trillion) of mineral reserves and a population that lives mostly in abject poverty. Preparations for the $700m election are, by common consent, in disarray with ballots still undelivered to many of the 60,000 polling stations. In what was seen as a prelude to a possible voting delay, the electoral commission cancelled a press conference yesterday blaming the weather.
Some international observers have still not deployed to the interior, with many believing a last-gasp delay will be announced which will be blamed on heavy rains. The international community has spent billions of pounds trying to stabilise the country – providing half the national budget – and the opposition has demanded that elections be held on time. The frenetic contest has seen candidates spend so freely that the Congolese franc has devalued by 10 per cent against the dollar in the past week, while accusations of hate-speech and vote rigging have been rife.