UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed grave concern Monday over the fate of elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, warning of the danger of political violence.
The DRC is supposed to hold elections in November, but the chances of them actually taking place are growing dimmer, with President Joseph Kabila suspected of planning to extend his rule after his mandate runs out at the end of the year.
Speaking during a Security Council debate on the situation in Africa’s Great Lakes region, Ban called on all parties “to settle their differences through dialogue and to create conditions conducive to holding timely and credible elections, in keeping with the constitution.”
“I am very concerned by the impasse in the organization of the next elections,” Ban said.
“In the past, the political crises that have hit the Great Lakes region have turned into generalized violence and serious security problems. We must prevent this scenario from being repeated.”
Ban urged the council and regional leaders “to help preserve political stability in the DRC by rapidly finding a way out of the current impasse.”
He said there has been “some progress” in security in the eastern DRC with the defeat of the M23 rebel movement and the resumption of military cooperation between the UN mission in the DRC and government forces against armed rebel groups.
But he recalled that 7.5 million civilians are still in need of humanitarian relief, including 1.5 million uprooted by the conflict.
US Ambassador Samantha Power said “there is no excuse for the harassment and detention of peaceful activists and opposition leaders in the DRC.”
“Not only must ballots be cast, but individuals must be allowed to campaign for their preferred candidates and express their opinions freely,” she argued.
Power also voiced concern at the DRC government efforts to limit cooperation with the UN peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO.
“Let us be clear: this council should not allow peacekeeping missions to become pawns in political games. When blue helmets are deployed, they must be allowed to fulfill their mandate -– in the DRC or any place else,” Power said.