People in the Democratic Republic of Congo have begun voting in a presidential election that could bring the troubled country’s first peaceful, democratic transfer of power.
Some unrest is feared after a last-minute decision to bar an estimated one million people from voting because of a deadly Ebola virus outbreak in the country’s east.
The decision has been widely criticised as threatening the credibility of the election.
Two main opposition candidates, Martin Fayulu and Felix Tshisekedi, are challenging President Joseph Kabila’s preferred successor, former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, who is under sanctions from the European Union.
Amid rainy weather in the capital, Kinshasa, Mr Kabila and Mr Shadary voted at the central Gombe Institute polling station.
“My message today to my compatriots is to come and vote for their candidates and brave the rain,” said Mr Kabila.
Mr Shadary called for “peace and calm”, adding: “I am very confident in victory because the Congolese people will trust me, I campaigned all over the country.”
DR Congo’s 40 million registered voters are using electronic voting machines with touch screens for the first time amid opposition concerns that the results could be manipulated.
Some observers have said voting materials did not reach some polling stations in time.
At stake is a country rich in minerals including those crucial to the world’s smartphones and electric cars, and yet DR Congo remains desperately underdeveloped. Corruption and insecurity are widespread.