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Police ban rallies in DRC as violence erupts on final day of campaigning

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With just two days two days left until voters go to the polls in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s presidential elections, police in Kinshasa have banned campaign rallies. This follows the death of a man near the airport where thousands of people had gathered to meet the election’s main rivals, Joseph Kabila and Etienne Tshisekedi.

Report: DRC elections – Possible delay

Radio France Internationale

Tensions were already high going into the last day of campaigning after both Kabila’s and Tshisekedi’s camp decided to hold a rally in Kinshasa’s Stade des martyrs on Saturday.

Kabila’s tipped as the frontrunner in the polls, with Etienne Tshisékédi of the UDPS (Union for Democracy and Social Progress) party thought to be the main challenger.

Meanwhile, the country’s independent electoral commission is rushing to finish preparations for the polls. It has the considerable task of delivering voting materials across a vast country with very little infrastructure.

The commission has asked for emergency support from South Africa, Angola and the United Nations, including additional helicopters and airplanes.

It also said on Friday it would change the rules around voter registration.

During a press conference the commission’s rapporteur Matthieu Mpita told journalists that polling station voter lists are no longer valid.

Despite not being on a given polling station list, people can still vote there if their voter card says it is their allocated polling station.

The move by the electoral commission aims to ensure that everybody eligible to vote gets to do so. However, some international observers say it could further complicates preparations and the timing of the announcement could encourage fraud.

“Communicating a last minute change after the training of all the election workers has been completed is a gamble,” David Pottie, from the Carter Center, told RFI. “You do run the risk and it’s a very real risk of creating different kinds of problems.”

As of Friday afternoon the news had not filtered through to the streets of Kinshasa or to it’s polling stations.

There are concerns over whether the vote will go ahead as scheduled. Any delay could make the logistical challenge worse and provoke further tension between the different presidential candidate supporters.

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Written by Daniel Finnan

26 November 2011 at 17:42

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