DR Congo bars Pierre-Bemba from presidential ballot

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The Democratic Republic of Congo’s Independent National Electoral Commission, CENI, has excluded opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba from a preliminary list of candidates ahead of long delayed elections.

Aside the former vice-president, CENI also rejected applications of five others including three former prime ministers. They cited reasons such as: “lack of nationality, no proof of payment, candidates conflict with their own party, failure of the cards, conviction by a court.”

The inadmissible list included: Ifoku, Sami Badibanga, Moka Ngolo, Muzito Adolphe, Gizenga Antoine, Bemba Ngombo. With the current exclusion, there are 19 candidates running to succeed Kabila including ruling party’s Emmanuel Ramazany Shadary.

Bemba, a former warlord who earlier in August returned to Kinshasa to submit his candidacy for president after a decade in prison in The Hague for war crimes, had been seen as one of the frontrunners in the race to succeed incumbent Joseph Kabila.

The commission said a separate International Criminal Court (ICC) conviction for witness tampering was the reason for Bemba’s exclusion from the list.

Bemba was acquitted on appeal at the ICC of war crimes and crimes against humanity for murder, rape and pillage committed by fighters he sent to Central African Republic in 2002 but his witness tampering conviction stands.

Opposition parties condemned the election commission’s decision, which can be appealed before the final list is published in September.

CENI also said over 15,500 candidates had been passed to contest for seats in the national assembly. The elections due to have been held in December 2016 will finally be held in December 23, 2018.

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