Democratic Republic of the Congo: Elections 2018 | DR Congo

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Soldiers and police in the city of Beni in eastern Congo fired in the air on Thursday to disperse demonstrators who barricaded roads and burned tires to protest the decision to exclude them from a presidential election this Sunday.

Lawmaker Muhindo Nzangi Butondo, a coordinator for opposition presidential candidate Martin Fayulu, called for street protests in Beni, Butembo and nearby Goma on Thursday, describing the CENI's actions as an attack on the Nande ethnic group.

The unrest occurred a day after Congo's electoral commission announced that Sunday's election is delayed until March for the cities of Beni and Butembo because of the outbreak, meaning that more than one million votes will not count.

Congo's health ministry says the uproar over a delayed presidential election in two cities hit by a deadly Ebola outbreak has "badly disrupted" work to contain the virus.

Opposition candidates call the delay a ploy to hurt their chances at the polls.

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Meanwhile, the rest of the country will vote on Sunday, with results announced on January 15 and the inauguration of a new president three days later. He was supposed to leave office in December 2016 after the end of his second and final term, but elections were postponed over lack of resources to conduct a free, fair and credible poll.

Exiled Democratic Republic of Congo opposition leader Moise Katumbi has urged Congolese to rise and take possession of their country in response to attempts by President Joseph Kabila's regime to manipulate the election on December 30.

He reminded "all actors that they have a critical role to play in preventing electoral violence, by refraining from any form of provocation and showing maximum restraint in their words and actions", a United Nations statement said.

The elections were postponed until the end of 2017 under a deal brokered by the powerful Catholic church - and then again until 2018, when Kabila eventually confirmed he would not run again.

Frustration has mounted across the vast, shakily governed Central African country after repeated election delays and blunders as well as a decision this week to shelve voting in several opposition strongholds.

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But the World Health Organisation warned "prolonged insecurity" in the country could erase gains make in tackling Ebola.

The latest postponement applies to the cities of Beni and Butembo in North Kivu, as well as to the territory of Yumbi in the southwestern province of Mai-Ndombe. Such attacks have hurt efforts to contain the Ebola outbreak, which since being declared August 1 has seen 585 cases, including 308 confirmed deaths.

More than 46 million people are registered to vote, the run-up to which was marked by deadly violence.

Precautions had been taken, he said.

The blaze destroyed more than two-thirds of the electronic voting machines allocated for the capital Kinshasa, where four million people live, an official said.

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It is believed that between people, Ebola is spread only by direct contact with the blood or other body fluids of a person who has developed symptoms of the disease, including saliva and sweat.

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