DR Congo’s electoral commission finished registering 46 million voters on Wednesday for a long-delayed election meant to replace President Joseph Kabila currently scheduled for December.
Repeated stalling of the election raised tensions across the country, triggering street protests and armed rebellions, especially since Kabila refused to step down when his mandate expired at the end of 2016.
Scores have been killed by security forces at protests in Kinshasa, including several in demonstrations organised by the Roman Catholic Church since the end of last year to demand the election go ahead.
Electoral commission (CENI) head Corneille Nangaa said 46,021,454 voters were registered, 12% more than expected. Only the Congolese diaspora was left and registration for them would start in July, he said.
“CENI is working to ensure elections happen on December 23,” he said.
Kabila, in power since his father was shot dead in office in 2001, denies clinging to power and blames the schedule slipping on problems registering voters in the vast, heavily forested country.
Completing registration is a major step towards the election happening, although it is unclear to what extent this will soothe tensions among a sceptical populace.
Kabila’s opponents suspect him of seeking a referendum to change Congo’s constitution to enable him to run for more than two terms, as the leaders of neighbouring Uganda, Rwanda and Congo Republic have. In a press conference on Friday, Kabila declined to confirm or deny this, as in the past.