UN calls for peaceful transfer of power in Congo

Africa | Ongoing dispute over elections has raised fears of another civil war
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 11/14/16, 01:47 pm

The United Nations Security Council has called for a peaceful transition to a new government in the Democratic Republic of Congo when the president’s term runs out Dec. 19. A UN delegation visited the country over the weekend and said a peaceful process is possible if the government ensures the people’s freedom of opinion and assembly.

“The DRC is at a pivotal moment in its history,” French Ambassador to the UN Francois Delattre said during the visit. “For the first time, a peaceful transition of power at the end of the president’s mandate is possible.”

President Joseph Kabila’s term is set to end Dec. 19. Elections had been scheduled for Nov. 27, but in October participants in the national dialogue on elections postponed the presidential voting until April 2018. Congolese Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo announced his resignation today in line with the agreement, which requires an opposition party member to take the position of prime minister.

Opposition groups have protested the move, calling it an unconstitutional attempt by Kabila to remain in power and run for a third term. Kabila came into power in 2001 after his father’s assassination and has served two terms. The main opposition coalition, known as Rassemblement, has staged popular protests on the 19th of every month. In September, the government banned protests across the country.

The UN delegation called on the Congolese government to lift the protest ban and end other forms of repression. The Security Council noted that during its visit, Radio France International’s signal in the country remained cut. The UN-backed Radio Okapi also was cut off for a while.

The delegation said it was willing to work with the country to ensure peace, but a third electoral term would not be an option.

“A third term has not been considered a solution to the crisis,” said Ismael Abraão Gaspar, Angola’s ambassador to the UN. “The solution lies in permanent dialogue.”

The international community and opposition members within the country have expressed concern that a Kabila third term could result in another civil war after millions died in conflict from 1998 to 2003.

“To prevent Congo from descending into a full-blown street war between Kabila’s private army and the population, the Security Council must at this critical moment push for a process by which Kabila can cede power at the end of his mandate and a transitional government can be put in place until a new president is elected,” Vava Tampa, founder of Save the Congo!, wrote to the The Guardian on behalf of 39 nonprofits.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.

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