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Presidential election kicks off in Democratic Republic of Congo

KINSHASA Democratic Republic of Congo (Xinhua) -- Voters in the Democratic Republic of Congo cast their ballots on Sunday in an election vital to the future of the central African country.

The election, which comes after repeated delays, will produce a successor to President Joseph Kabila and is deemed decisive for a peaceful transfer of power.

However, there is concern over the credibility of the election following some organizational problems and a government decision to exclude some 1 million voters due to a deadly Ebola virus outbreak in the east.



Two dead at presidential election polling station in DRC: media

KINSHASA Democratic Republic of Congo (Xinhua) -- Two people were killed in a disturbance between voters and police at a polling station in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Sunday, local media reported.

The incident took place on the polling day of the presidential election at a polling station at Lurhala Primary School in the eastern province of South-Kivu, said a media report.

According to testimonies collected by the local press, a man suspected of being an agent of the CENI (electoral body of the DRC) came in the day to force voters to vote for the ruling party candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, creating scuffles.

A police officer deployed to secure the poll then fired on the voters he thought were out of control, killing one of the voters on the spot. In anger, the crowd beated the policeman to death. The unrest also left two injured.

The organization of the presidential election in the DRC has experienced several obstacles, including late opening of polling stations, absence of electoral lists, various malfunctions of voting machines, etc.

After slipping his ballot into the ballot box on Sunday morning, incumbent President Joseph Kabila said that “our people remain determined to overcome the challenges of the poll, together we write our own history.”

The Congolese will know the successor to Kabila on Jan. 15 with the publication of the final results.


Uganda on high alert as neighboring DR Congo goes to the polls

KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) -- As the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is scheduled to hold general elections on Sunday, neighboring Uganda is on high alert at the military, health and refugee fronts.

Richard Karemire, Uganda’s military spokesperson, told Xinhua by telephone on Saturday that the army has beefed up security at its western common border with volatile eastern DRC.

“We continue to be prepared in case on any incursions on our territory by the Allied Democratic Forces rebels (ADF).That one has always been steady and has become a permanent phenomenon on our part to keep on maximum alert,” Karemire said.

Karemire added that the ADF could use the high numbers of fleeing Congolese to infiltrate the border.

ADF is a Ugandan rebel group holed up in the jungles of eastern DRC together with other Congolese militia groups.

Karemire said military has sufficient forces along the border. “We are supported by Local Defense Units. We recruited thousands of them sometime back,” Karemire said.

The UN refugee agency in a recent interview with Xinhua said in case there is an overflow of Congolese seeking refuge in Uganda, humanitarian agencies are ready to handle them.

There are fears that there is likely to be post-election violence after the Sunday vote.

Duniya Aslam Khan, spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Uganda, said additional resources may be required in case there is an influx of refugees.

According to the inter-agency Refugee Response plan for 2019-2020, about 416 million U.S. dollars is needed for 2019 to respond to the humanitarian needs of the Congolese refugees in Uganda.

According to UNHCR figures, about 300,000 Congolese refugees are expected to be hosted in Uganda by the end of 2018. Many of them flee fighting in north and south Kivu regions.

Parts of eastern DRC are experiencing an Ebola outbreak, according the World Health Organization (WHO).

Facing the challenge, Uganda says it is tightening border surveillance just in case there is an influx of people crossing as a result of possible election violence.

“We are putting in place measures to ensure that we have the capacity to screen whatever numbers may flock into the country,” Ruth Aceng, Uganda’s minister of health told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, WHO Country Representative, told Xinhua that efforts have been doubled ahead of the polls to prevent the spread of the highly contagious disease into the country.

“There has been an effort by the ministry and its partners to prevent the spread of the disease. The volunteer health teams have been briefed and are intensifying surveillance,” said Woldemariam.

“Even if people pass and they get sick, the community is the second line of defense and that capacity has been enhanced in the last few weeks,” he said.



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