US pressures Kabila to step aside in DR Congo vote

With only five months to go before elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the United States on Thursday urged President Joseph Kabila to quickly declare that he will not seek re-election.

The vote is to take place two years later than originally scheduled, and after dozens have died in protests against Kabila who has been in power since 2001.

Addressing the UN Security Council, US Deputy Ambassador Jonathan Cohen said « the time for posturing is over » and that Kabila must now make clear his intentions for the December 23 vote.

« We expect President Kabila to abide by the DRC constitution and the December 2016 agreement. He is not eligible under Congolese law to seek a third term, » Cohen said.

France and Britain have previously also called for him to clearly state that he will step aside and not run in the election.

Kabila had been expected to announce whether he planned to run in an address to parliament last week, but he kept the world guessing about his intentions.

On that same day, the Security Council issued a joint statement with the African Union’s Peace and Security Council to call for a « peaceful and democratic transfer of power » following the December vote.

The DRC has never known a peaceful transition of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.

Candidates for the presidency must declare their bids by August 8.

The United States renewed criticism of the DR Congo’s plan to use electronic voting in the polls, saying the voting machines could undermine the credibility of the elections.

The election commission « must take steps to ensure voters can cast their votes via a mechanism that is tested, trusted, and guarantees secrecy of the vote — namely paper ballots, » said Cohen.

The elections have come under intense scrutiny at the Security Council, which is planning to pay a visit to the DR Congo later this year, possibly in October.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had planned to travel to Kinshasa along with African Union Commission chairman Moussa Faki this month but that visit was postponed, at Kabila’s request.

Congolese Ambassador Ignace Gata Mavita urged world powers to support elections in his country « through positive actions » and complained of « interference from all sides ».


By AFP, in The East Africa, 27.07.18