Demonstrators protest in Beni in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday, December 27.
Patrick Felix ABELY
Demonstrators protest in Beni in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday, December 27.
Goma, Congo CNN —  

Citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo headed to the polls Sunday for a long-delayed presidential election originally scheduled to be held in 2016.

Police fired tear gas to disperse dozens of protesters who blocked roads and burned tires in Beni, one of three cities where elections have been delayed because of terrorism and an ongoing Ebola outbreak.

Voters in the cities of Beni, Butembo and Yumbi will not be able to cast their ballots until March, the Independent National Election Commission (CENI) said Wednesday, prompting street protests a day after.

Anti-riot policemen were deployed in response to street protests in Goma and Butembo, two cities surrounding Beni, on Thursday morning as angry demonstrators, mainly supporters of opposition parties, took to the streets to protest their exclusion from Sunday’s polls. Protesters also barricaded major roads by using stones to block vehicles.

Demonstrators barricaded streets in Goma with stones
ALEXIS HUGUET/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Demonstrators barricaded streets in Goma with stones

Supporters of Fayulu marched to election commission headquarters in Kinshasa on Thursday.

Fayulu had earlier condemned the electoral commission’s decision in a post on Twitter, calling it “another strategy to turn the truth out of the ballot box.”

But a spokesman for the electoral body said that the decision to delay voting in those areas was legal.

The long-awaited election had been slated for December 23, but the electoral commission delayed voting for a week amid political turmoil and one of the deadliest Ebola outbreaks in history.

Police patrol outside the election commission headquarters in Kinshasa.
Luis Tato/AFP/Getty Images
Police patrol outside the election commission headquarters in Kinshasa.

Sunday’s vote to pick a successor to President Joseph Kabila follows a violent campaign season amid a tense backdrop of conflict between militant groups and government forces.

A massive fire engulfed a warehouse housing electoral materials in Kinshasa earlier this month, destroying thousands of voting machines – around 80% of the city’s stock.

The Central African nation also is in the throes of an Ebola outbreak, said to be the second-deadliest in history.

Journalist Patrick Felix Abely reported from Goma and CNN’s Bukola Adebayo wrote from Lagos, Nigeria.