UN chief warns of possible election violence in Congo

AP News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2016 6:59 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned Monday of possible election-related violence in Congo, where recent months have also seen a sharp increase in tribal and inter-ethnic conflicts.

The U.N. chief urged the Security Council and leaders in the region to help U.N. peacekeepers preserve political stability in Congo "by quickly finding a solution to the present deadlock" over the upcoming elections.

Congo is scheduled to hold elections in November. The opposition worries that President Joseph Kabila, meant to leave office in December, will postpone the election timeline to stay in power. The European Union and rights groups have expressed concern over reports of intimidation against political opponents, civil society and media.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told the council that civil society in Congo is threatened and "democratic processes are being deliberately undermined."

Even though Congo's national election commission said in January that it would need 18 months to update voter rolls, Power said election experts have assured the United States that this can be done in six months and "there is no credible reason" that the election can't be held on schedule.

She also stressed that "there is no excuse for the harassment and detention of peaceful activists and opposition leaders" and warned that Congo's fragile progress in democracy, stability and economic growth "hangs in the balance."

Ban called the upsurge in tribal and inter-ethnic violence "an alarming trend" that requires urgent attention. He also urged sustained efforts to neutralize all armed groups, including by extending state authority into areas reclaimed by government forces.