Congo President Says Progress Being Made in Setting Vote Date

  • Kabila says ‘irreversible’ steps taken in election preparation
  • African nation’s opposition says president delaying the polls

Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila Kabange addresses the 72nd Session of the United Nations General assembly at the UN headquarters in New York on Sept. 23, 2017.

Photographer: Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images

The Democratic Republic of Congo has made “irreversible” progress in preparing credible and peaceful elections, President Joseph Kabila told the United Nations, without giving a date for the vote whose delay has spurred violent protests.

Speaking before the UN General Assembly on Sept. 23, Kabila said that 42 million of an estimated 45 million eligible voters have been registered. An ongoing “series of evaluations of the electoral process” should permit the “forthcoming publication” of the electoral calendar by the election commission, Kabila told the New York meeting in a rare public speech.

Kabila, who’s ruled since 2001, was supposed to step down at the end of his constitutionally limited second term in December 2016, but the vote for his replacement has been delayed, sparking protests in which dozens of people have died. Under a political agreement struck Dec. 31, opposition parties accepted that he could remain in office if the vote was held this year. Congo, Africa’s largest copper producer, has never had a peaceful transfer of power.

While the votes for the presidency, parliament and provincial positions are meant to take place by year-end, there are doubts that will happen and some of Congo’s opposition accused Kabila himself of causing the delays so he can retain office.

“Despite the advances, challenges in organizing elections in my country remain enormous,” Kabila told the UN, citing logistical, financial and security obstacles.

On Sept. 14, the Rassemblement, Congo’s largest opposition coalition and a signatory of the December pact, said Kabila “has deliberately blocked the electoral process and scuttled the accord.” Prominent members Moise Katumbi and Felix Tshisekedi signed a statement on the assembly’s sidelines on Sept. 14 calling for “a transition without Kabila” if elections aren’t held before the end of the year.

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