DR Congo presidential election delayed after warehouse fire

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DR Congo presidential election delayed after warehouse fire

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Image caption Supporters of opposition leader Martin Fayulu, who has been accused of instigating violence

The Democratic Republic of Congo's long-delayed presidential election has been postponed for another week.

The vote, scheduled for Sunday, is now due to take place on 30 December, the Electoral Commission said on Thursday.

A delay in deploying voting materials to polling sites after a fire last week was behind the move, it added.

It is the latest in a series of delays to frustrate opposition supporters, who suspect that President Joseph Kabila intends to cling on to power.

Mr Kabila, who has been in office since 2001, was meant to have stepped down in 2016 under a constitutional prohibition from seeking an additional term.

However, the election to choose his successor has been continually postponed, amid unrest and reported logistical difficulties.

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Latest delay may trigger violence

By Louise Dewast, BBC News, Kinshasa

Many Congolese are not surprised by this delay.

For months, there have been serious doubts about whether the logistical challenges of organising these elections would be met: whether all the electoral materiasl would arrive in a timely manner for them to be dispatched across the vast country.

Last week, a fire at one of the electoral commission's warehouses destroyed a lot of electoral material, increasing those doubts.

This announcement could trigger violence in the country as polls have shown that a large number of Congolese people do not want further delays.

How the next few days evolve will depend a lot on the presidential candidates themselves and whether they tell their supporters to stay calm or to reject the electoral commission's decision.

On Wednesday, a commission spokesman warned that the election could not go ahead as scheduled if all the voter materials were not ready. The announcement followed news that thousands of electronic voting machines were destroyed in last week's fire in the capital, Kinshasa.

The capital is home to four million people, some 15% of the electorate.

The latest delay was also said to be linked to efforts to contain an outbreak of the Ebola virus and recent ethnic violence.

The government has accused supporters of an opposition candidate, business tycoon Martin Fayulu, of instigating election violence. Mr Fayulu's campaign has rejected the charge.

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Mr Kabila is backing his former Interior Minister, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, in the election.

DR Congo has not had an orderly change of government since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

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