Catholic activists warn against post-vote delays in DRC

A Catholic activist group which has strongly campaigned against President Joseph Kabila warned on Friday against any delay in the transfer of power following Democratic Republic of Congo's crucial December elections.

And it also cautioned against the use of controversial electronic voting terminals on December 23 when voters will choose a successor to Kabila, who has ruled this volatile, poverty-stricken nation with an iron fist since 2001.

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.

"The end date for his process is December 23, 2018. Beyond that date, we should have new leaders," said the CLC collective, which groups together Congolese Catholic laypeople.

The CLC was at the heart of three rallies calling for Kabila's departure at the start of the year which prompted a brutal crackdown that left 15 people dead.

The Catholic Church has long been pressing for the departure of Kabila, who has stayed in power as caretaker leader even though his second and final elected term ended nearly two years ago.

Their call was backed by the pro-democracy Lucha movement, which has launched a campaign called "Let's get rid of the underachievers".

"These 'underachievers' who are hoping to be elected or reelected are found both among the 'majority' as well as among the 'opposition', in civil society and even among independent candidates," Lucha said.

The two organisations also weighed in on a bitter dispute over touch-screen voting machines that has divided the opposition, with CLC warning they could easily be exploited for fraud.

"In view of the extreme sensitivity of the presidential election, paper ballots should be used," a spokesperson said, with Lucha also urging people to take a stance against the use of touchscreen terminals.

Despite a wave of protest, the electoral board is standing by its decision to use 106 000 touchscreen electronic voting machines supplied by South Korea.

In a separate announcement, Lucha said it was planning to file suit against Kabila's handpicked successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary "for misappropriation of public assets and personnel".

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