Postponement of elections in DR Congo is extremely dangerous

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THE postponement of elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is worrying and potentially dangerous for the Congolese people and for aid agencies working to address massive humanitarian need in the country, including the second largest Ebola outbreak in history, says the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

The electoral commission on Thursday confirmed that it was postponing the presidential election scheduled for Sunday, to December 30, citing delays in deploying voting materials.

After a meeting with candidates in the capital, the electoral commission (CENI) said it had not been able to provide sufficient ballot papers for Kinshasa after a warehouse blaze last week destroyed much of the capital’s election material.

‘We cannot organise general elections without the province of Kinshasa, and without the Kinois voters – who represent 10 percent of the electoral body,’ CENI president Corneille Nangaa told journalists.

But in a statement released on Thursday, the IRC says that while it acknowledges the importance of being properly prepared to hold a free, fair and transparent election, postponement beyond one week, and thus extension of President Joseph Kabila’s term, would be exceptionally damaging to the country’s rule of law. Further delays could inflame political tensions and further worsen the ongoing humanitarian crisis and undermine the humanitarian response.

‘President Kabila has been pushing back elections since his constitutionally mandated term ended in 2016, which has led to an increase in violence and insecurity across the country. New IRC analysis ranks Congo as the country second most at risk of experiencing humanitarian crisis in 2019,’ said the statement.

Sarah Terlouw, DRC Country Director at the International Rescue Committee, said, ‘The Congolese people have been under attack for decades, driven by pervasive indifference, impunity and inaction that has perpetuated widespread exploitation, violence and displacement. Aid agencies operating in Congo are witnessing vicious cyclical outbreaks of violence across the eastern side of the country, where armed militants burn down villages and use rape as a weapon of war. With almost 13 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and more than sixty armed groups operating in North Kivu alone, the Congolese people need to see an end to their suffering.

‘Compounded by the second largest Ebola outbreak in history spreading throughout North Kivu, the country is in desperate need of an administration that will make ending the unrelenting violence facing the Congolese people its number one priority. The IRC calls on the Democratic Republic of Congo’s electoral commission (CENI) to hold elections within the shortest possible time frame and for the current administration to support a peaceful transition of power. Additionally, the international community must exert pressure to ensure elections go ahead with minimal delay and that humanitarian space is respected.’

The IRC has been working in Congo since 1996 responding to the humanitarian crisis in the east. It has since evolved into one of the largest providers of humanitarian assistance and post-conflict development, providing life-saving assistance in health, economic recovery, protection, and livelihoods.

 

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