Le président de la République démocratique du Congo, Joseph Kabila, dans un jardin de son ranch personnel à Kinshasa, 10 décembre 2018.
Le président de la République démocratique du Congo, Joseph Kabila, dans un jardin de son ranch personnel à Kinshasa, 10 décembre 2018.

Congolese President Joseph Kabila is defending his country's decision to hold national elections Sunday following a series of delays and a fire that destroyed thousands of voting machines.

In an exclusive interview late Thursday with VOA's Swahili Service, Kabila said he saw no reason why the Dec. 30 vote should not take place as scheduled. Kabila said the electoral commission is ready for the vote and has what he called "full security" in place.

The polls for president and the National Assembly were scheduled to take place Dec. 23, but the date was pushed back a week after a fire ripped through a warehouse in the capital, Kinshasa, destroying voting machines and other election materials. 

Employees of Congo's Independent National Electora
Employees of Congo's Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) deliver voting machines and materials to a polling station in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dec. 27, 2018.

Kabila told VOA that he believes officials have since received all the equipment needed to conduct the elections.

He also defended the electoral commission's decision to postpone voting until March in two eastern districts where an Ebola outbreak has killed more than 300 people in recent months. The decision, which sparked protests in the city of Beni on Thursday, effectively bars voters in the districts from taking part in the presidential election.

"We are using computers," Kabila said. "It means that everyone is going to vote by touching the computer screen. So it is going to be easy to spread the [Ebola] virus. [It's] different from attending a church service or a campaign meeting."

Demonstrators barricade a road during protests ove
Demonstrators barricade a road during protests over their exclusion from the presidential election in Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dec. 28, 2018.

In an interview with VOA's English to Africa Service Friday, presidential candidate Martin Fayulu said the delays in the east are meant to undermine the opposition. He said candidates have faced no danger campaigning in eastern Congo.

Kabila is scheduled to step down next month after 17 years in office — two years beyond the official end of his mandate. Congo's elections were originally set for 2016, but were repeatedly postponed. Officials cited organizational problems for the delays. Opponents of Kabila accused him of trying to stay in power.

More than 20 candidates are competing to replace Kabila as president of the sprawling central African nation. An opinion poll released this week showed Fayulu in the lead. Kabila is backing his former interior minister, Emmanuel Shadary, in Sunday's vote.

Saleh Mwanamilonga contributed to this report from Kinshasa. Peter Clottey contributed from Washington.