Elections / DR Congo: Pre-election violence worries African leaders

Testing the electronic voting machine for the December 30th elections in DR Congo

Testing the electronic voting machine for the December 30th elections in DR Congo

  |  Reuters

The Presidents of Angola, Republic of Congo, Namibia, Zambia and Botswana, gathered on Wednesday in a mini-summit, expressed "strong concerns" over violence in Sunday's elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRCongo).

Heads of State João Lourenço (Angola), Denis Sassou N'Guesso (Republic of Congo), Hage G. Geingob (Namibia), Edgar Lungu (Zambia) and Mogweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi (Botswana) expressed, in a press release after the CIRGL-SADC joint regional summit in Brazzaville, that violence in "certain localities of the country can jeopardize the serenity of the elections."

During the political campaign, more than a dozen people died in DR Congo, although the government of Joseph Kabila - in power since January, 2001, and prevented from being re-elected by the Constitution - denied the deaths. 1001

At the meeting of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in the capital of the Republic of Congo, the Presidents of the five countries "decided to send to Kinshasa," on Thursday, a delegation of foreign ministers to hand over to Kabila - who was not present at today's meeting - "the conclusions" of the mini-summit.

The five Presidents "reaffirmed their strong commitment to holding peaceful, free, democratic and transparent elections" in DR Congo and "lamented the destruction in December 13 of part of the electoral material" in Kinshasa.

The fire in the Congolese capital forced the DRC's electoral commission to postpone presidential, legislative and provincial elections from the 23rd to the 30th of this month.

The press release stresses "the readiness" of the countries present at the mini-summit to "accompany the DRCongo in this sensitive period" and appeals to "the political class and civil society to appease and revoke violence."

Today, after analysing a partial report that reveals new tensions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the country's electoral commission has announced that in Beni-Butembo, in Kivu Norte province, and Yumbi, in Mai-Ndombe, two areas in which there are conflicts, the elections will take place only in March of next year.

Elections delayed twice

Both regions are also being affected by the Ebola virus, so the election commission justified the postponement with the lack of security conditions.

At the CIRGL-SADC mini-summit, in which Rwanda was represented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Uganda and South Africa by diplomats, the heads of state did not allude in the communiqué to this partial report.

Initially scheduled for 2016, Sunday's elections have already been postponed twice, and, in addition to the presidential elections, they will also allow for the selection of parliamentary representatives at national and provincial levels.

The latest postponement was announced last week by Congo's National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) and was justified by problems caused by a fire that destroyed 8,000 electronic ballot boxes.

Opposition parties have already said they will not tolerate further postponements of the vote that will elect the successor of Joseph Kabila, the president since 2001, who can not run again for having already served two terms, as envisaged in the constitution.

The electoral process in DR Congo was one of the main themes of the Summit of the Big Lakes Countries, with the heads of state emphasizing "the satisfaction of the African Union role in finding solutions to the situation in the region."

This summit was an initiative of the Head of State of the Republic of Congo and current President of the CIRGL, Denis Sassou Nguesso, and of the President of Namibia, Hage G. Geingob.