DR Congo heads to poll to end President Kabila’s 17-year rule

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Twenty-one candidates are running to replace long-term President, Joseph Kabila, as Democratic Republic of Congo goes to the polls this week in elections which could see the country move on  after 17 years of conflict-ridden rule under controversial ruler.

Kabila’s hand-picked successor Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary is one of the front-runners.

More than 40 million voters will be casting their ballots on Sunday to choose a successor to 47-year-old Kabila, who has ruled the nation since the assassination of his father in 2001.

The electoral campaign period had been mostly peaceful but at least six people were killed last week in clashes at two opposition rallies, with police blamed for much of the violence.

Foreign officials have expressed concerns over growing political tensions leading up to the election.

In a joint statement last week, the embassies of the United States, Canada, Britain and Switzerland in Kinshasa said they were deeply concerned by the loss of life.

The UN rights chief also denounced the “excessive use of force” against opposition supporters, urging Kinshasa to ensure the “essential conditions for credible elections” to be fully protected.

The aftermath of 2006 and 2011 polls — both won by Kabila — had resulted in bloodshed.

The current election has been delayed as Kabila should have stepped down as president at the end of 2016 when he reached a two-term limit.

But he stayed on thanks to a constitutional clause enabling him to remain in office until a poll is held, sparking protests that were bloodily repressed.

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