The United Nations secretary-general is urging authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo not to further delay general elections but to hold them, as promised, at the end of this year.
“In the current politically polarized climate, there is a real risk that plans for the holding of the long-awaited polls could be derailed once again,” Antonio Guterres wrote in his quarterly report to the Security Council on the work of the U.N. stabilization mission in DRC, known as MONUSCO.
The government and opposition signed an agreement Dec. 31, 2016, calling for President Joseph Kabila to step down after elections were held in 2017.
Further delays in the electoral process not only risk fueling political tensions, but also compounding an already fragile security situation
But the promised polls have been repeatedly delayed, inciting civil unrest and prompting fears that the 46-year-old Kabila may seek to further extend his 17-year-long rule.
“Further delays in the electoral process not only risk fueling political tensions, but also compounding an already fragile security situation, ‘’ U.N. Peacekeeping Chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix told a meeting of the Security Council on Tuesday.
Lacroix’s office oversees the MONUSCO mission which, with more than 21,000 personnel and an annual budget of over a billion dollars, is the U.N.‘s biggest peacekeeping operation.
On Dec. 31, state security forces forcibly put down anti-Kabila protests organized by Catholic activists, and at least five protesters were reported killed, further raising concerns.
DRC U.N. Ambassador Ignace Gata Mavita wa Lufuta however dismissed the allegations, saying the five deaths had nothing to do with the protests and were of separate incidents involving mainly criminal elements.
He reiterated the Kabila government’s willingness to hold elections.
Several security council members expressed concern about the security situation, the violation of human rights, and the need for the elections to go ahead as scheduled.
“Credible, transparent and peaceful elections leading to a peaceful and democratic transition are necessary for the stability of the DRC, and indeed the entire region,” France’s U.N. envoy Francois Delattre told the meeting.
Ivory Coast, which joined the council on Jan. 1 as a non-permanent member, urged all parties to hold the elections on time and expressed concern at the recent violence around the protests.
Equatorial Guinea is also a new council member, and its envoy Anatolio Ndong Mba advocated that all stakeholders participate in “transparent, frank and inclusive, and good faith dialogue.”
As part of its mandate, the U.N. mission in DRC is supporting the electoral process, and providing logistical and technical support to the Electoral Commission for voter registration and other electoral activities.