An opposition party in the Democratic Republic of Congo is protesting an electoral calendar that it says will deny many young people the right to vote in local elections this year.
Opposition parties in the DRC have been contesting the electoral process for months, with deadly consequences in January, when according to Human Rights Watch, at least 40 people were killed in street protests. The government denies that figure and has said about a dozen people died.
Those protests led to the announcement of an electoral calendar, but now opposition activists are contesting the date set for local and provincial elections this year, which they say is too soon. They say logistics are not in place and many young voters would be excluded.
New calendar called unconstitutional
Speaking at a public meeting on the streets of Goma, Christian Badosse, a local spokesman for the Engagement for Citizenship and Democracy [ECIDE] party said the new calendar is unconstitutional.
He said this is because the constitution clearly states everyone over the age of 18 has the right to vote.
According to the calendar announced by electoral commission president Abbe Appollinaire Malu Malu, the local elections this year will be based on lists of voters drawn up in 2011, and anyone not on those lists will not vote.
As Badosse pointed out, that excludes people who were under 18 in 2011, but are now between 18 and 22.
He told the crowd that recently, many young Congolese died for the right to vote.
"You exerted pressure in the streets between January 19th and 22nd," Badosse told the mainly young audience, saying it is possible many Congolese died in those protests.
Maluku cemetery probe
Badosse suggested there now is a question over the figure of 40 victims cited by Human Rights Watch. He said there is now an inquiry about the bodies found at Maluku cemetery near Kinshasa.
Last Friday, the government announced that more than 400 bodies have been discovered in a mass grave at Maluku. The deputy prime minister said these were bodies of the destitute and of children who died in infancy.
The government has announced a judicial investigation into the circumstances surrounding the grave.
The United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo has welcomed that announcement and says the U.N. human rights office will ‘accompany’ the investigation.
The ECIDE meeting was stopped by police after about 10 minutes.
“I knew the police would come," said someone in the crowd. There were no arrests and no violence.