No Congo elec­tion un­til mid-2019, says elec­toral com­mis­sion


KINSHASA: A long-de­layed elec­tion in Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo to re­place Pres­i­dent Joseph Ka­bila can­not take place un­til at least April 2019, the elec­toral com­mis­sion said, a sched­ule cer­tain to en­rage op­po­nents who say Ka­bila is cling­ing to power.

The polls were orig­i­nally sched­uled for Novem­ber 2016. The sched­ule out­lined by the elec­toral com­mis­sion would tor­pedo an agree­ment be­tween Ka­bila’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives and his op­po­nents that the elec­tion would take place be­fore the end of this year.

Dozens of peo­ple died last year in protests against Ka­bila’s re­fusal to step down at the end of his term. Parts of the coun­try are in the hands of in­sur­gents who say they will not stop fight­ing while he re­mains in power.

Congo’s elec­toral com­mis­sion said in a state­ment fol­low­ing a meet­ing with civil so­ci­ety rep­re­sen­ta­tives on Tues­day that it would need at least 504 days to or­ga­nize the poll once voter reg­is­tra­tion is com­pleted.

Enrolment be­gan in parts of the coun­try’s in­sur­rec­tion-rav­aged Ka­sai re­gion in mid-Septem­ber and the com­mis­sion says it will, in prin­ci­ple, take about three months. That means the vote could not be or­ga­nized un­til April 2019 at the ear­li­est.

The com­mis­sion is ex­pected to re­lease a calendar for the pres­i­den­tial and other elec­tions this month.

The op­po­si­tion ac­cuses Ka­bila of try­ing to cling to power by post­pon­ing elec­tions un­til he can find a way to re­move con­sti­tu­tional term lim­its that pre­vent him from stand­ing for re-elec­tion, as his coun­ter­parts in neigh­bor­ing Rwanda and Congo Repub­lic have done.

Ka­bila, who took power after his father Lau­rent Ka­bila was as­sas­si­nated in 2001, de­nies he in­tends to re­main in of­fice, and says the elec­tion de­lays are due to dif­fi­cul­ties en­rolling mil­lions of vot­ers and mo­bi­liz­ing hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in fi­nanc­ing.

Congo has never ex­pe­ri­enced a peace­ful tran­si­tion of power and Ka­bila’s re­fusal to step down last year has fu­eled mount­ing in­se­cu­rity across the coun­try, where mil­lions died in regional con­flicts be­tween 1996-2003, most from hunger and dis­ease.

An in­sur­rec­tion in Ka­sai has killed up to 5,000 peo­ple and dis­placed 1.4 mil­lion more since last Au­gust, and mili­tia vi­o­lence has also spiked in the east­ern bor­der­lands, where dozens of armed groups are ac­tive.

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