United Nations Ready to Back Update of Congo Voter Register

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The United Nations offered to help the Democratic Republic of Congo update its electoral list as the country’s opposition threatens protests over the government’s failure to publish a revised election calendar and begin voter registration.

“The partners are ready to support the revision of the voter register,” the head of the mission, Maman Sambo Sidikou, said Monday in an e-mailed statement after meeting the country’s electoral body. “It is a prerequisite, a technical exercise that must come first, time should not be wasted politicizing it. We must find a solution quite quickly.”

Congo, Africa’s biggest copper producer, was scheduled to hold a series of local, provincial and national votes between October 2015 and November 2016. The process has faced delays over issues including the revision of the voter register. The country’s political opposition say President Joseph Kabila intends to delay the elections, including a presidential vote scheduled for November, in order to retain power.

About 7 million new voters between the ages of 18 and 22 need to be registered, according to a November report by the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, commissioned by Congo’s electoral body, the CENI. Work on registering new voters hasn’t begun, with some members of the ruling coalition proposing the country should instead organize a national census, which would take longer and cause further delays.

A group of leading opposition parties and civil society groups, the Front Citoyen 2016, last month said that the government must publish a revised election calendar by Jan. 31 and begin the enrollment of new voters on the electoral register by Feb. 10 or face demonstrations.

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