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Delays mark tense DR Congo election | DR Congo News

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Kinshasa, DRC – An armed militia overrun several polling stations in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as millions went to the polls to elect a new president.

Maimai fighters attacked voting stations in six townships in Lubero town in North Kivu province forcing voters to cast their ballot for a candidate of their choice, a local government official told Al Jazeera.

Meanwhile, in South Kivu, a police officer and a civilian were killed following allegations of voter fraud at a polling station in Walungu.

Voting started slowly on Sunday due to heavy rains but long queues marked the later part of the polling day.

In the capital, Kinshasa there were long delays at several polling stations due to lack of voting machines.

The electoral body said on Wednesday twenty percent of the polling stations in Kinshasa will not open due to lack of voting machines after fire destroyed one of its main warehouses in the city.

The city is home to about 15 percent of the Central African country’s registered electorates.

In Bumbu municipality in Kinshasa, only 10 out of the 12 polling stations were opened for voting leaving many voters frustrated. Dozens of other voters could not find their names on the voting register.

“I have looked through all the lists and my name is not appearing on any of them. I’m very disappointed as I wanted to cast my vote for the candidate who will change things here. I wonder why are they complicating things. I need to vote but now I’m not allowed to,” Nicoles Manebo, a 50-year-old nurse, told Al Jazeera.

Analysts said more should have been done to prepare voters to use the machines which have been deployed for the first time in the country.

“Many voters have never seen such a tool before they went into the polling booth. It was a big problem for many voters I saw today. This will, of course, affect their voting experience in one way or another,”  Gode Kadima, a political analyst, told Al Jazeera.

More than 46 million Congolese registered to take part in the election which has been repeatedly delayed since 2016.

As many as 21 candidates are competing to succeed Kabila, who came to power following the assassination of his father in 2001.

Meanwhile, voting did not take place in three opposition strongholds with at least 1.2 million registered voters.

The electoral commission (CENI) earlier this week said it was delaying voting in the eastern cities of Beni and Butembo in North Kivu until March next year because of the ongoing Ebola outbreak which has claimed more than 330 lives.

CENI also said voting will take place in March next year in Yumbi in the western Bandundu province because of ethnic violence. More than 100 people have been killed in the area since the start of this month.

On Sunday, security forces fired tear gas to disperse protesters in Goma, North Kivu province headquarters, unhappy with postponement of the vote in the two cities.

Meanwhile, the powerful Catholic church said 846 polling stations have been put up in “prohibited places” such as police and military posts.

The church, which sent more than 40,000 observers across the country, said voting machine in 544 out of the 12,300 voting places it monitored were not functioning.

DR Congo, a mineral-rich country of 80 million people in central Africa home to more than 60 percent of the world’s cobalt, has never had a peaceful transfer of power since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

Voters are also electing representatives for the national and provincial assemblies.

Preliminary results are expected on January 6 with the official results of the presidential poll coming on January 15.

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Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling

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So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

For Masuma, the decision to keep her daughter home was complex: extended family members are immunocompromised and she worried the in-person learning environment would be unpleasant because of precautions. She also felt her daughter might benefit from being supported at home.

“She doesn’t necessarily enjoy school. I also found out during the pandemic that she was being bullied [last year],” said Masuma. “So I thought, why not try from home?”

To help her daughter socialize face-to-face with other kids, Masuma enrolled Hana in Baxter Forest School, an alternative education program where kids spend most of their time outside, one day a week. Hana also attends virtual Arabic classes two days a week after school. 

Masuma’s husband and Hana share the living room work space, and Masuma admits he does the lion’s share of helping their daughter stay on task. There is a possibility that he’ll be required to return to his office in the new year.

“When he goes back to work … it’s probably going to be a little bit more difficult.”

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No school closures after Christmas holiday break, says Ontario education minister

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Ontario elementary and secondary schools will not close for an extended winter break, says Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Closures aren’t needed given Ontario’s “strong safety protocols, low levels of (COVID-19) transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce announced Wednesday afternoon. He said he had consulted with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the province’s public health measures advisory table.

That ended speculation about school buildings remaining closed in January for a period of time after the Christmas break.

Earlier in the week, Lecce told reporters the government was considering having students spend “some period out of class” in January, perhaps switching to online learning.

In a statement, Lecce said that even though rates of community transmission of COVID-19 are increasing, “schools have been remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks to ensure that our kids stay safe and learning in their classrooms.”

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Windy start to the week in Ottawa

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OTTAWA — It’s a blustery Monday in the capital with wind gusts of up to 50 km/hour expected throughout the day.

Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 4 C with a 60 per cent chance of showers or flurries before the wind dies down later this evening.

There’s a chance of flurries on Tuesday as well with a high of -1 C. The overnight low will dip to an unseasonal -9 C.  

Wednesday’s high will be just -5 C with lots of sunshine.

Seasonal temperatures return for the rest of the week..

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