Thursday, October 12, 2017

Congo Elections Won't Be Held Before April 2019
By William Clowes
October 11, 2017, 12:29 PM EDT

Body organizing election says preparations need 504 more days
President agreed with opponents to step down after 2017 vote

Joseph Kabila arrives to deliver a speech at the Palace of the People in Kinshasa on April 5, 2017. Photographer: Junior D. Kannah/AFP/Getty Images

Elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo that were due last year won’t be held before April 2019, the electoral commission said, a delay that undermines a pact President Joseph Kabila’s supporters made with his political opponents for him to step down this year.

The commission said in a statement that it will need 504 days to organize the polls once it completes the enrollment of voters. The body says it has finished the registrations in all of Congo except the conflict-ravaged Kasai region, where it began in early September and said it will take three months.

The commission also said it will need almost 17 months to allow for the passing of a new law drawing elected representatives’ constituencies, obtaining voting materials and recruiting personnel.

Kabila, who’s led Congo since 2001, was meant to step down at the end of his second term in December 2016 following an election to find his successor. That vote was delayed, sparking protests in which dozens of people have been killed by security forces. The delay of any polls until 2019 undercuts an agreement his political coalition struck Dec. 31 with opposition parties. Under its terms, Kabila’s opponents accepted he could remain in office if elections for the presidency, as well as parliamentary and provincial positions, were held this year.

Congo, Africa’s biggest copper producer, has never had a peaceful transfer of power. The Rassemblement, the largest opposition coalition, accuses Kabila of being the main obstacle to the timely holding of elections and wishing to stay in power beyond the two terms stipulated by the constitution. Last month, two of its most prominent members, Moise Katumbi and Felix Tshisekedi, called for “a transition without Kabila” if elections aren’t held in 2017.

“The holding of elections has become a political tool of Mr. Kabila to distract the people,” Jean-Bertrand Ewanga, a senior Rassemblement member, said by phone after the latest announcement. “It’s not a logistical problem. It’s not a problem of money. It’s a problem of someone who is seeking to cheat 80 million people. The problem in our country is called Joseph Kabila. He must leave.”

The Rassemblement will “no longer recognize him as head of state” after Dec. 31, Ewanga said.

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