DRC electoral commission says vote should be delayed
Kinshasa — Voter registration for Congo’s November presidential election will not be completed until next year, the electoral commission president said on Saturday, suggesting that the vote should be delayed.
Independent National Electoral Commission President Corneille Nangaa said a voter register cannot be ready until at least July 2017 because of logistical problems in registering more than 30 million voters, and because of a lack of funds.
The electoral commission started the registration process in Congo’s northwest on July 31.
The opposition has expressed concern that President Joseph Kabila would delay the November 27 elections in order to remain in power beyond his mandate, which ends in December.
The constitutional court in May said that the president should remain in office until a new leader is elected. Kabila has not spoken out about his political future.
“The electoral commission does not intend to be in violation of the constitution and took action by launching a revision of the electoral roll,” said Nangaa.
The delay is likely to cause further tensions with opposition parties, which have been calling for on-time, free and fair elections.
Jean-Baptiste Bomanza, the deputy coordinator of a coalition of opposition parties, called for the publication of an electoral calendar that “respects the constitutional deadline.”
An African Union-appointed mediator, Edem Kodjo, said that dialogue would begin tomorrow on a new electoral timeline. The opposition parties put forth requirements for their participation in a national dialogue on elections, including the release of political prisoners.
Congo’s minister of justice on Friday pardoned 24 people whom the opposition considered political prisoners.
Since Congo won independence from Belgium in 1960, there has never been a peaceful, democratic transition of power.
Kabila took over after his father was shot by a bodyguard, and was then elected president in 2006 and again in 2011.
Meanwhile, a military court in the Democratic Republic of Congo has begun the trial of 215 members of an armed group accused of killing hundreds of civilians in and around Beni town in the country’s northeast.
Eighty accused members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) from Uganda, Congo, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Sudan, were present in court on Saturday in Beni, North Kivu province, where they face charges of massacring civilians, prosecutor Kumbo Ngoma told the DPA news agency.
The remaining suspects will be brought from prisons elsewhere in the country to face trial.
Six suspects who took the stand on Saturday were accused of participating in the killing of 51 people with machetes near Beni town last weekend.
Appearing at the public hearing in blue and yellow prison shirts, the six were charged with “participation in an insurrectional movement, crimes against humanity for murder and terrorism,” said Colonel Jean-Paulin Esosa, who presides over the military court. — AFP