UN Security Council team visits DRC at tense time
A DELEGATION from the United Nations 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 DRC 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 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 co-presidents — 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.
Meanwhile, The United Nations Security Council called on Wednesday for an immediate end to hostilities by all armed groups in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo to combat a deadly Ebola outbreak.
Council members stressed the urgency of getting medical teams to the affected areas quickly “because the disease can spread rapidly, including to neighbouring countries, possibly impacting regional stability”.
The council issued the statement after a closeddoor video briefing by World Health Organisation Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and ahead of a trip to DRC starting on Thursday evening.
WHO said on Saturday that the risk of the Ebola virus spreading from northeastern DRC, where the latest outbreak began, is now “very high” after two confirmed cases were discovered near the Uganda border.
The outbreak of the hemorrhagic fever in northeastern DRC is now larger than the one in the northwest that was declared over last month. And it is more complicated to contain because of a dense, highly mobile population and a rebel threat so serious that some health workers say they’re operating in a war zone.
A deadly attack in Beni, the heart of Ebola containment efforts, forced a suspension of work to contain the virus for two days last week. That led the WHO’s emergencies chief, Peter Salama, to warn that insecurity, public defiance about vaccinations, and politicians fanning fears ahead of elections in December could create a “perfect storm” leading the outbreak to spread.
As of last Friday there were 124 confirmed Ebola cases, including 71 deaths. The previous outbreak in DRC’s Equateur province had 54 confirmed cases, including 33 deaths. — Al Jazeera.
US first lady Melania Trump is escorted by head teacher Maureen Masi as she arrives for a visit at Chipala Primary School, in Lilongwe, Malawi, Thursday
Nicodeme Ayao Habia