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DRC elections: EU Cancels Election Observation Mission Due to "Technical Issues"

European Union flags flying at half-mast in homage to killed Italian ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo,February 23, 2021.   -  
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LUIS TATO/AFP or licensors

Democratic Republic Of Congo

The European Union announced on Wednesday that it was cancelling its election observation mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, citing "technical" reasons.

On Tuesday evening, the EU had stated that its election observers who had arrived in the DRC had been unable to "deploy across the country for security reasons", making their mission "impossible".

"Due to technical constraints beyond the EU's control, we are forced to cancel the election observation mission," said European Union diplomatic service spokeswoman Nabila Massrali in a statement released on Wednesday.

She added that essential telecommunications equipment had not been made available to the observers deployed in the country ahead of the December 20 polls.

"The EU encourages the DRC authorities and all stakeholders to continue their efforts to ensure that the Congolese people can fully exercise their legitimate political and civil rights in the forthcoming elections," added the spokeswoman, quoted in the statement.

She added that "the EU is examining other options with the Congolese authorities, including the possibility of maintaining a mission of electoral experts to observe the electoral process from the capital".

The Democratic Republic of Congo, a vast Central African country with a population of almost 100 million, is due to hold legislative and presidential elections on December 20th, in which incumbent President Félix Tshisekedi, 60, is seeking a second term.

Mr. Tshisekedi came to power in the last elections in 2018. At the time, many observers, including representatives of the Catholic Church in the DRC, felt that the elections were marred by irregularities.

This European electoral observation mission, the first in the DRC for over 10 years, was announced in early November by the EU's head of diplomacy, Josep Borrell. "The coming months will be decisive for the consolidation of democracy in the DRC and for bilateral cooperation between the DRC and the EU", he said.

For almost 30 years, the DRC has been shaken by violence from armed groups in the east of the country, where peacekeeping troops from the UN and the Community of East African States (EAC) are deployed.

The violence is currently peaking with the return of a former rebel movement, the M23 ("March 23 Movement"), supported by neighboring Rwanda, according to numerous sources.

President Tshisekedi's government has decided not to renew beyond December 8 the mandate of the EAC force deployed to combat the M23.

Meanwhile, the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC (Monusco), present in the country since 1999, declared last week that it had signed a plan with the government to withdraw its 14,000 peacekeepers deployed in the country.

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