Congo to Double Number of Provinces Before General Elections

The Democratic Republic of Congo will expand the number of its provinces from 11 to 26 in the coming three months to fulfill a constitutional requirement before elections are held, Planning Minister Olivier Kamitatu said.

The expansion won’t delay local elections, scheduled to start in October, or next year’s presidential vote, Kamitatu said in an interview on Thursday at an economic conference in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

“This will be done in the next three months and it will not impact the elections, which will not be postponed,” he said.

Congo’s 2006 constitution, which marked the end of a transitional government after nearly a decade of war, requires the nation to increase the number of provinces. The government has repeatedly postponed the move, citing logistical, financial and security concerns. The country’s electoral commission said last month the elections, which will culminate in a presidential vote in November 2016, will cost $1.1 billion, or more than 10 percent of its annual budget.

Kamitatu declined to say whether he’ll be a candidate in the presidential election, when President Joseph Kabila must step down after completing a second five-year term.

“I come from a political family and I’m continuing to work for the government,” Kamitatu said. “The election is in 18 months, so we’ll see.”

Third Term

Opposition leaders have expressed concern that Kabila will try to seek a third term by changing the constitution or prolong his mandate by delaying elections. Kabila will step down in 2016 after the end of his second term, government spokesman Lambert Mende said in February.

At least 40 people died in the capital, Kinshasa, and several other Congolese cities in January in protests over the possibility of Kabila extending his tenure, according to Human Rights Watch. The demonstrations were called off after four days when the Parliament voted to amend legislation so that it no longer contained a requirement to carry out a census before elections, which would have delayed the vote.

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