UN Security Council team in DRC
KINSHASA — A delegation from the UN Security Council was awaited yesterday in Kinshasa ahead of a long-postponed presidential poll and amid tensions between authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the United Nations’ largest peacekeeping mission.
President Joseph Kabila’s government in the strife-prone country has long been demanding the withdrawal of UN mission MONUSCO, whose initial military observers were deployed in 2000 during the Second Congo War.
The force currently counts more than 15,000 troops, 1,000 police and 2,500 civilians in its ranks.
Speaking at the UN General Assembly last week, Kabila vowed to “oppose any interference in the electoral process under way” and said that his country would cover the full cost of the votes on December 23.
The council team, led by French ambassador to the United Nations Francois Delattre, will restrict its visit to the capital Kinshasa and plans to meet Kabila, his prime minister and foreign minister, as well as the electoral commission responsible for organising the vote across the vast equatorial African nation, a MONUSCO source said.
Staying in the country until tomorrow, the 15-member team should also have talks with civil society leaders and representatives of women’s organisations and religious bodies.
The Roman Catholic church is influential in the DRC.
Kabila, 47, has been in power since 2001. His second and final elected term in office ended nearly two years ago, but he stayed in office thanks to a caretaker clause in the constitution.
Months of feverish speculation about Kabila’s plans, marked by protests that were bloodily repressed at a cost of dozens of lives, ended in August when he threw his weight behind Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a hardline former interior minister, as his favoured candidate.
The meeting between UN delegates and Kabila has not been formally confirmed, UN sources said.
MONUSCO head Leila Zerrougui this year announced that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres would travel to the DRC in July, but the visit was called off, officially because Kabila would be unavailable at the time.
The UN team has three copresidents — France, which drews up UN resolutions on the DRC, Equatorial Guinea, chosen by African nations, and Bolivia, acting president of the Security Council in October.
The electoral commission has so far respected the latest timetable for the vote almost to the day, while opposition parties are looking for a single candidate to rally round rather than boycotting the poll.
There is opposition to voting machines imported from South Korea, regarded as potential for chaos.
The election commission says the machines will cut both costs and fraud, but critics point out that they depend on a reliable power supply, which is far from guaranteed.
Conflict persists notably in the North Kivu province on the country’s eastern border, which has been subject to consecutive waves of bloodshed and brutality involving militias, rebel groups and government forces for more than 20 years. — AFP
MONUSCO’s military commander, Brazilian General Elias Rodrigues Filho, reviews troops at Goma, capital of North Kivu province, in May 2018. — AFP/VNA Photo