A car drives past an election campaign poster of Felix Tshisekedi, presidential candidate of Congo’s Union for Democracy Party. Congolese officials have openly worried about the risks of holding an election on Sunday in a region where health officials fight to bring Ebola under control amid rebel attacks. AP
KINSHASA: In his 74 years, Congolese historian Isidore Ndaywel has lived through independence from Belgium, two coups d’etat, multiple civil wars and three changes to the country’s name.

On Sunday, he hopes to witness another milestone: a presidential election meant to lead to Democratic Republic of Congo’s first democratic transfer of power. But like many, he’s keeping his expectations in check.

Ndaywel has lived in hiding since last year because of his work with a Catholic group that has organised protests against President Joseph Kabila, who is stepping aside after nearly 18 years in power.

For many of Congo’s 80million citizens, half of whom are registered to vote, the election offers a chance to draw a line under decades of conflict and economic stagnation.

Repeated crises have left the country mired in poverty and 15million in need of food aid. The vote to replace Kabila, who succeeded his assassinated father in 2001, was first scheduled for 2016 but repeatedly delayed.

Kabila’s opponents accused him of trying to cling to power with security forces shooting dead dozens of people protesting against him. The violence raised fears of a slide back into conflict that killed millions.

When Kabila finally announced in August that he would step down, for some Congolese, most of whom live on less than $2 (R14) a day, it was a rare glimmer of hope.

Campaigning for Sunday’s vote turned violent last week when security forces cracked down on opposition supporters, killing at least seven. And a fire destroyed 8000 of 10000 voting machines earmarked for Kinshasa. Kabila’s opponents accuse authorities of conspiring to rig the election with untested electronic voting machines. The DRC election has been postponed for at least a week. Reuters