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Police Fire Live Rounds on Congolese Election Protesters

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Several hundreds of people demonstrate, Dec. 27, 2018, in Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo, to protest the postponement, announced the day before by the Congolese national committee, of the general elections in this area because of the Ebola outbreak and militia action.

Police in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo fired live ammunition and tear gas Thursday to disperse demonstrators who were protesting a decision to effectively exclude them from Sunday's presidential election.

Dozens of demonstrators burned tires and attacked Ebola centers in the city of Beni after Congo's electoral commission said it will delay voting until March in Beni, Butembo and surrounding areas because of a deadly Ebola outbreak.

Twenty-four patients fled one Ebola treatment facility when it was attacked by protesters, the health ministry said.
Protesters also marched to a local election office in Beni to demand the right to vote on Sunday along with rest of the country and for the commission's president to resign.

Health care workers enter a house where a baby suspected of dying of Ebola is, during the funeral in Beni, North Kivu Province of Democratic Republic of Congo, Dec. 18, 2018.
Health care workers enter a house where a baby suspected of dying of Ebola is, during the funeral in Beni, North Kivu Province of Democratic Republic of Congo, Dec. 18, 2018.

The commission has also postponed voting in the western city of Yumbi because of ethnic violence.

Opposition parties behind candidate Martin Fayulu have called for a workers strike throughout Congo to protest the delays, which could affect more than 1 million voters.

Compounding the unrest was the foreign ministry's expulsion of European Union Ambassador Bart Ouvry. The move came in response to the EU's renewal of two-year-old sanctions against Congolese officials, including ruling coalition candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.

The areas where voting will be postponed are centers of opposition to outgoing President Joseph Kabila, who has been president since he replaced his assassinated father in 2001.

Local politicians have criticized the moves as an attempt to manipulate the vote in favor of Shadary, Kabila's favored presidential candidate.

The election to replace Kabila was originally set to take place in 2016 but has been repeatedly delayed for more than two years.

The delays sparked violent protests in which dozens of people were killed by security forces.

Shadary has two main challengers out of a group of 21 candidates. They are the president of Congo's largest opposition party, Felix Tshisekedi, and Fayulu, a former legislator and Exxon Mobile manager.

Some 40 million registered voters are set to go to the polls Sunday to decide the fate of a country that has a wealth of mineral resources, but lacks adequate infrastructure and basic services.

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