UN condemns Congo clashes, calls for quick election calendar

AP News
Posted: Sep 30, 2016 8:09 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Human Rights Council on Friday strongly condemned recent deadly clashes in Congo fueled by political turmoil and called on the government and electoral commission to establish a calendar for elections "as fast as possible."

Tensions in Congo have risen as it has become increasingly apparent that President Joseph Kabila will stay in office after his term legally ends in December. Congo's electoral commission said November's scheduled presidential vote won't be possible, and a court has determined Kabila can stay in power until another election is organized.

A resolution adopted by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council called on the government to create "without delay the necessary conditions for holding free, transparent, inclusive and peaceful elections."

It also called on the government and the electoral commission "to accelerate preparations towards the holding of elections and to establish as fast as possible a credible electoral calendar" as part of a national dialogue.

Dimitris Christopoulos, president of the international human rights group FIDH, which includes 184 organizations from close to 120 countries, said: "The United Nations just sent President Kabila a crystal-clear message: respect the rule of law, the constitution and the electoral process; otherwise you will be held to account before the international community."

The Human Rights Council expressed deep concern at reports of violations of civil and political rights, "particularly freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, committed by state actors in the context of crucial election processes." It singled out threats and intimidation of members of political parties, civil society and journalists.

The resolution "strongly urges" the government to peacefully resolve the political issues that led to the recent violence, particularly in the capital Kinshasa, "and avoid additional confrontation."

Last week, the U.N. Security Council urged all parties in Congo to end violent clashes and open a peaceful political dialogue on the holding of presidential elections. It strongly condemned the violence that it said has led to the death of at least 32 people, including four police officers.