The Democratic Republic of Congo said it will hold presidential and parliamentary elections on the 20th of December 2023, starting a year of complex arrangements in the vast Central African country, large parts of which are overrun by militia violence.
Announcing the date at a ceremony in Kinshasa on Saturday, the electoral body, CENI, outlined several challenges, including the logistics of transporting ballot materials thousands of miles, health concerns about Ebola and COVID-19, and unrest that has constrained hundreds of thousands to leave their homes.
But the government has vowed to stick to the timetable in the country of 80 million people.
“It is not a question of negotiating with the constitutional deadlines, it is a question of us respecting them and consolidating our democracy,” said government spokesman Patrick Muyaya.
He said that the election will cost about $600 million, more than $450 million of which has already been planned.
Election struggles are common in Congo. The last presidential poll, Congo’s first democratic transition, was delayed by two years until it was finally held in December 2018. In that vote, President Felix Tshisekedi took over from his long-standing predecessor Joseph Kabila. This time, similar challenges remain.
Candidates are supposed to be announced in October next year, with a final list due in November. Tshisekedi is supposed to run again and one likely challenger is Martin Fayulu, who claimed triumph in the 2018 poll.
Presidents are limited to two terms under Congolese law.
Despite billions of dollars spent on one of the United Nations’ largest peacekeeping powers, more than 120 armed groups keep on operating across the east, including M23 rebels, which Congo has repeatedly blamed Rwanda for supporting. Kigali denies the allegations.
The M23 has staged a major offensive this year, seizing territory, and forcing thousands of people from their homes.