UN watch­dog or­ders DRC to hold elec­tion

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

GENEVA— The UN Hu­man Rights Com­mit­tee on Thurs­day gave Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of Congo a year to re­port on ac­tions it has taken to hold free and fair elec­tions and clean up its rights record.

The United Na­tions watch­dog, whose 18 in­de­pen­dent ex­perts mon­i­tor coun­tries’ com­pli­ance with a global hu­man rights treaty, said Congo should come back with an ex­pla­na­tion by Novem­ber 10, 2018, rather than af­ter the reg­u­lar four years be­tween re­views.

Congo should “co­op­er­ate with all stake­hold­ers to es­tab­lish an agreed elec­toral cal­en­dar for the hold­ing of free, peace­ful and hon­est elec­tions as soon as pos­si­ble”, the com­mit­tee said in its re­port on the cen­tral African coun­try.

Congo’s elec­toral com­mis­sion said on Sun­day the elec­tion to re­place Pres­i­dent Joseph Ka­bila, orig­i­nally sched­uled for late 2016 and re­peat­edly de­layed, would be held on De­cem­ber 23, 2018.

The main op­po­si­tion par­ties have re­jected the date, say­ing it broke the law and an agree­ment to go to the polls this year.

The African Union has said the new elec­toral timetable must be “scrupu­lously re­spected” and US Am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions Nikki Ha­ley has said cit­i­zens are “hun­gry for democ­racy and new lead­er­ship”.

“Fur­ther de­lays and at­tempts to hold onto power will only serve to iso­late the DRC’s lead­ers and gov­ern­ment,” she said on Mon­day.

The UN com­mit­tee’s re­port also said Ka­bila’s gov­ern­ment should put an end to in­tim­i­da­tion and hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions against op­po­si­tion can­di­dates, and en­sure they were pro­tected.

The gov­ern­ment should take steps to make judges, of­fi­cials and the pub­lic aware of the rights guaranteed by the UN treaty, it said, list­ing short­com­ings such as the treat­ment of women and in­dige­nous mi­nori­ties, tor­ture, ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings, child labour and ar­bi­trary de­ten­tion.

Sex­ual vi­o­lence was per­sis­tent both in peace­ful ar­eas and in con­flict zones, where it was used as a weapon of war by armed groups and by Con­golese sol­diers alike, the com­mit­tee said.

It was par­tic­u­larly con­cerned about the sit­u­a­tion in the Ka­sai re­gion, where the United Na­tions has said a rebel militia largely com­posed of chil­dren has been con­fronted by a militia sus­pected of a cam­paign of eth­nic mas­sacres and rapes.

The United Na­tions has set up a fact-find­ing mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate the Ka­sai atroc­i­ties, al­though the gov­ern­ment has in­sisted Congo’s jus­tice sys­tem is in charge.

It has ac­knowl­edged iso­lated hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions in the Ka­sai con­flict and other con­flict zones but de­nies its troops sys­tem­at­i­cally use dis­pro­por­tion­ate force.

But the UN com­mit­tee said Congo’s Na­tional Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion was un­able to op­er­ate out­side Kin­shasa, had re­ceived no funds since March 2017, and was not re­garded as in­de­pen­dent.— Reuters.

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