DRC: Presidential Candidates Begin Month-Long Campaigns in Congo-Kinshasa

Incumbent President Felix Tshisekedi is vying for a second term, while the opposition is attempting to unite behind a single candidate. The ongoing rebel conflict in the eastern part of the country is casting a shadow over the upcoming election.

Presidential contenders in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have initiated their campaign for the December 20 presidential vote.

Incumbent President Felix Tshisekedi, the frontrunner favored to win, is seeking a second term. Despite the rainy weather, he kicked off his campaign with a rally at the Martyrs Stadium in Kinshasa, which was packed with its full capacity of 80,000 attendees.

Papa Kalombo, a Kinshasa official for the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), a party supporting Tshisekedi, stated, “He tells the truth, and he’s the only one who is starting to do things.”

Opposition aims to overthrow incumbent

Meanwhile, the opposition in the country is working on uniting its forces and agreeing on a single candidate to challenge the president.

Representatives from five leading opposition groups recently convened in South Africa to propose an individual for the position.

On Sunday evening, former Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo announced his withdrawal from the presidential race and pledged his support to opposition candidate Moise Katumbi.

“Following consultations held in Pretoria, Moise Katumbi emerges as the candidate that could lead the opposition ticket represented by four major parties and groups that took part in this discussion,” Matata Ponyo said in a speech on Sunday night, without naming the parties.

Opposition parties have expressed concerns about potential election manipulation. They have accused the Independent National Electoral Commission of irregularities during the voter registration period, alleging that it benefits Tshisekedi’s ruling coalition. The commission has denied these accusations.

East violence overshadowing the election

Around 44 million registered voters are expected to participate in the election, out of a total population of approximately 100 million in the DRC. Voters will also decide on candidates for legislative and local positions.

The eastern part of the DRC has endured three decades of conflict. Violence has recently escalated, with the M23 rebel group seizing control of much of North Kivu province.

Many Western countries have concluded that the M23 rebels receive support from Rwanda, although Kigali denies these allegations.

The ongoing fighting is anticipated to impact the voting process in two territories within the province. However, if the rebels gain control of the provincial capital Goma and continue to expand their territory, the entire election process will be jeopardized.

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