Kinshasa, DR Congo | AFP | More than 50,000 supporters of DR Congo’s President Joseph Kabila turned out on Saturday to hear a speech by his favoured candidate in a long-delayed presidential election in December, AFP reporters said.
Although campaigning has not started officially, the appearance of Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary had all the hallmarks of a campaign rally.
“I am Joseph Kabila’s candidate,” Ramazani Shadary told the crowd. “After him we are going to continue the work to rebuild our country.”
Kabila, 47, has been in power since 2001. His second and final elected term in office ended nearly two years ago, but he stayed in office thanks to a caretaker clause in the constitution.
“On December 23, 2018, there will be an election. Let nobody tell you it will be postponed,” said Ramazani Shadary, a hardline former interior minister.
Supporters arrived by public transport or taxi at the Tata Raphael stadium in the centre of Kinshasa.
Ministers, including the prime minister, and other government officials, some under police protection, also attended the event in the stadium that has an official capacity of 40,000.
Far fewer police were deployed than the previous day, when thousands of opposition supporters rallied across DR Congo seeking the withdrawal of electronic voting machines, saying they would be misused to rig the results in the December vote.
The regime of President Joseph Kabila in a rare gesture authorised that protest but AFP correspondents said security forces were deployed in strength in Kinshasa, the key eastern cities of Goma and Bukavu and Bunia in the northeast.
At Saturday’s rally, Ramazani Shadary said that “We want the voting machine”, a slogan that was quickly picked up by the chanting crowd.
Two previous presidential elections in DR Congo, in 2016 and 2017, were cancelled.
Official campaigning for the planned December vote opens on November 22.