JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The United Nations secretary-general is seeking 320 additional police for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo as tensions over long-delayed elections have caused violence to spread into new areas of the country.
The new report by Antonio Guterres to the U.N. Security Council, obtained by The Associated Press, says a recent political agreement reached by the ruling party and opposition to hold presidential elections this year is in peril as the sides engage in "brinksmanship."
The vast Central African nation has seen widespread anger over President Joseph Kabila's stay in power after his mandate ended in December. The U.N. says security forces killed at least 40 civilians, including two children, in the December unrest.
The government has delayed elections, saying preparations are not complete.
The U.N. chief's report says additional police for the peacekeeping mission will help "keep the political process on track."
Under the political agreement, Kabila would not run in the election.
Guterres urges the deal's "speedy implementation," starting with the appointment of a prime minister.
"Further delays will only serve to inflame tensions and fuel the violence that is now spreading across the country," his report says. Insecurity is no longer limited to the east, where rebel groups jostle for stakes in the country's trillion-dollar mineral resources.
The additional police for the U.N. mission would be deployed in Lubumbashi and Kananga, "where there is a high risk of urban violence in the upcoming electoral period," the report says.
Guterres also is seeking 36 armored personnel carriers for the new and existing police units.
The Security Council is expected to evaluate the Congo peacekeeping mission, the U.N.'s largest with more than 19,000 military members and a budget of over $1 billion, later this month.
The latest note of uncertainty in Congo's political drama is the death last month in Belgium of opposition icon Etienne Tshisekedi, who had been heavily involved in the political agreement. Disagreements over the return and burial of his body, which had been expected this weekend, have added to tensions.
Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed.