The long-delayed and long-awaited race for the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) presidency shifted into a new gear this week with the official launch of the candidates’ electoral campaigns. Exactly a month from now, some 40 million people, about half of the resource-rich country’s population, are expected to finally elect a new president after two years of postponements, uncertainty and turmoil. Outgoing President Joseph Kabila has controversially remained in office even though his second consecutive and final constitutional term officially expired in 2016. While Kabila insisted the election delays were due to challenges enrolling millions of voters and financial constraints, his refusal to step down sparked violent rallies in which dozens of protesters were killed.
The DRC has not known a peaceful transfer of power since independence from Belgium in 1960, and there are still several questions over how the upcoming polls will be conducted – from logistical and financing difficulties to various threats to peace and security, including militia violence and a deadly Ebola outbreak in the country’s east.
Still, electoral officials maintain that the vote will go ahead as planned on December 23, when at least 20 candidates will vie to succeed Kabila.
Among them is Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a die-hard Kabila loyalist who was chosen at the 11th hour as the candidate for the outgoing president’s recently-minted electoral coalition, the Common Front for Congo (FCC).