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The Latest: Protesters in Congo's Ebola zone demand to vote

The Latest: Protesters in Congo's Ebola zone demand to vote

KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — The Latest on Congo's presidential election (all times local):

3:25 p.m.

Hundreds of protesters have marched in the streets of Beni in eastern Congo demanding the right to vote in Sunday's presidential election along with the rest of the country. The government says voting in the cities of Beni and Butembo is delayed until March because of a deadly Ebola outbreak.

The opposition says the votes of an estimated 1 million people won't count as Congo plans to inaugurate a new president in January.

Beni's police chief, Blaise Safari, says 22 people have been arrested in the protests that began on Thursday. He says police are clearing streets barricaded by demonstrators. Gunfire can still be heard after the police and army used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse the marchers.

Some protesters carried crosses with the words "RIP Kabila" and saying that departing President Joseph Kabila's preferred successor Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary "will never be our president."

A statement by Beni's civil society urges residents to turn out en masse on Sunday to vote despite the delay.


9:50 a.m.

Congo's leader says "there is no further reason" to prevent Sunday's presidential election after two years of delays, but he blames an Ebola outbreak for the last-minute decision to keep an estimated 1 million voters from the polls.

In an interview with The Associated Press, President Joseph Kabila says it would be a "disaster" if people vote Sunday in two large communities in the Ebola outbreak zone, asserting that "a single person" could infect scores or hundreds of others.

His comments Thursday evening contradict those of his own health officials, who have said precautions had been made in collaboration with electoral officials so people could vote in the outbreak zone.

Voting is delayed in opposition strongholds Beni and Butembo until March, long after the inauguration of Kabila's successor in January.

Updated : 2021-07-26 13:48 GMT+08:00