Africa in the news: DRC elections and Sudan protests

An official from Congo's Independent National Electoral Commission(CENI) counts presidential elections ballots at tallying centre in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, January 4, 2019. REUTERS/Baz Ratner - RC168E05A470

DRC holds election after delay

On Sunday, the Democratic Republic of Congo held presidential, provincial, and legislative elections. The elections, planned for December 23, were postponed by a week due to technical problems and an ongoing Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo. According to election day reports, voters faced long delays at polling stations due to broken machines, torrential rain in parts of the country, and incomplete voter rolls. The electoral commission has already announced that results, expected to be published on Sunday, could be delayed as counting centers wait for local results to come in. Already, both the opposition and ruling party have announced that they expect their candidates to win.

Tensions are high in the country as the government cut internet and text messaging services on Monday, citing “security reasons.” Communication services are expected to remain suspended until official results are announced according to a senior advisor to President Joseph Kabila. Further, the government has also jammed the signal for Radio France Internationale, a popular news source in the country. A joint statement by several western missions in the country urged the government to restore “access to the internet and the media.”

Widespread protests in Sudan over economic hardship

At least 40 people have been killed in Sudan during near-daily protests over the past two weeks. The protests, which have occurred in cities across the country, were prompted by cash shortages, high levels of inflation, and the high prices of staple goods such as bread and gas, which were exacerbated by Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s decision to end fuel and wheat subsidies.

While protests began in response to economic hardship and low living standards, they have morphed into general anger at Bashir’s government. Sudan’s political opposition is now pushing for the end of Bashir’s regime and the creation of an interim government, and has called for a continuation of protests to demand that Bashir step down.

In response, Sudanese officials have blocked access to social media platforms used to organize protests, declared emergency laws and curfews, and suspended classes at schools and universities across the country. Security forces have responded to protestors with force, including the use of live ammunition.

In a recent speech, Bashir promised wage hikes and appealed to patriotism to discourage protestors, while blaming Sudan’s economic hardship on international sanctions. The central bank governor has additionally said that Sudan is seeking funding from other countries to ease the economic crisis.