Elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been postponed by one week, to Dec. 30, the country's electoral commission said Thursday.
Commission chair Corneille Nangaa told reporters the delay is due to "technical" problems related to the capital, Kinshasa. A fire last week destroyed hundreds of voting machines meant to be used in the city.
News of the postponement initially leaked out after Nangaa held a private meeting with presidential candidates earlier in the day.
A VOA French to Africa reporter in Kinshasa said that despite fears of unrest, no soldiers were deployed on the streets of the capital, which remained calm.
Congo's polls were originally scheduled to take place in late 2016, but were delayed as President Joseph Kabila refused to step down at the end of his second term. He has led the vast Central African country since 2001.
Kabila and Congo's ruling party have endorsed former interior minister Emmanuel Shadary to be Congo's next president. Shadary faces several strong challengers, including Felix Tshisekedi, the head of Congo's biggest opposition party, and Martin Fayulu, a businessman endorsed by a coalition of opposition groups.
Curb on campaigning
Election campaigning had been expected to continue until midnight Friday. But on Wednesday, campaign rallies were banned in the capital city by Andre Kimbuta, Kinshasa's governor and a member of the ruling People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD). Kimbuta claimed to have been informed that some opposition candidates' supporters were preparing for street confrontations in Kinshasa.
Fayulu, one of 21 presidential candidates, complained that the ban targeted his campaign.
Congolese authorities "must explain to me why they prevented me from campaigning here in Kinshasa while all other candidates are campaigning everywhere," Fayulu said in a phone interview with VOA on Wednesday. He also said that he had been blocked from flying into several airports across the country. "… Why all these restrictions on one candidate?"
Anasthasie Tudieshe reported from the Democratic Republic of Congo, with VOA French to Africa Service's Eddy Isango and Idrissa Fall contributing from Washington.