Democratic Republic of Congo’s main opposition parties rejected a new date for elections to replace President Joseph Kabila, saying it violates the law and a political deal agreed with government.
Originally scheduled for late 2016, polls have been repeatedly delayed. Following several rounds of deadly protests, Kabila’s camp and his opponents signed an accord last December agreeing to hold the election before the end of this year.
On Sunday, Congo’s CENI elections commission announced the election, which term limits currently bar Kabila from taking part in, will be held on December 23, 2018 with the winner to be sworn in on January 13, 2019.
“The calendar presented by the CENI violates the Constitution, the December 2016 accord and electoral law,” read a statement from opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi’s Rassemblement coalition.
The document was also agreed to by the MLC and UNC opposition parties.
Dozens died in protests against Kabila’s refusal to step down at the end of his constitutional mandate last December.
Unrest sparked by uncertainty surrounding the polls raised fears Congo could witness a repeat of the violence that killed millions around the turn of the century, mostly from hunger and disease.
After the CENI said last month the vote could only take place in April 2019 at the earliest, the opposition warned the population would “take matters into its own hands”.
“Opposition leaders call on all Congolese people to be vigilant and mobilised in the aim of freeing up the electoral process by December 31, 2017,” Tuesday’s Rassemblement statement said.
It went on to state the coalition believed it was possible to hold the vote by June 30 next year at the latest.
The CENI and government officials blame poll delays on problems registering millions of voters across the vast Central African nation. The opposition accuses Kabila of manipulating the process to cling to power.