By Giwa SHILE
The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has commended the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Joseph Kabila’s decision not to stand in elections scheduled to take place on Dec. 23.
In a statement issued by Mr Stéphane Dujarric, his spokesman, Guterres also welcomed the continued progress towards the holding of presidential and legislative elections in DRC in December, preparing the ground for a peaceful transfer of power.
However, in spite of Kabila’s announcement, Leila Zerrougui, the UN Special Representative for the country and head of UN Stabilisation Mission to DRC, has expressed concerns about the lack of a “level playing field” in the political process so far this year.
Zerrougui cited opposition grievances – including over voting machinery and electoral records – and ongoing human rights violations: civil society actors and political opponents in DRC continued to be arbitrarily arrested and media workers threatened.
She warned that without progress on these fronts, the credibility and inclusivity of the elections might be at risk.
In line with constitutional rules, Kabila was due to end his mandate as leader of the Central African nation, in 2016.
Following delays and subsequent political mediation, his term was extended until December 2017, but protests were sparked when polls were once again delayed by 12 months, resulting in the violent repression of demonstrators by Congolese security forces.
Kabila’s name was absent from a provisional list of candidates that was published by CENI, the DRC’s electoral commission, on Wednesday.
On Thursday, a joint statement from Canada, the US, Switzerland, the EU and African Union, as well as MONUSCO, applauded Kabila for agreeing to step down at the end of the year.