DR Congo government must secure polls for election – UN


With key national elections due next month in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), armed groups in the east of the country still threaten to derail the vote, the top United Nations official in the country told the Security Council.

Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the DRC, said the provinces of Tanganyika and South Kivu and parts of North Kivu are most at risk.

Armed group violence in these “key provinces” could affect deployment of electoral material and prevent some of the population from voting on December 23, she said.

Her briefing came as news reports cited the collapse of a short-lived deal by opposition parties in DRC, to field a joint candidate to contest the presidential election, against the ruling coalition’s chosen candidate. President Joseph Kabila, in power for 18 years, is ineligible to stand for a third-term according to existing constitutional rules.
“It will be important for government to take steps in the coming weeks to secure polls, particularly to ensure participation of women, who make up half the registered voters,” Zerrougui said.

Alongside efforts to ensure credibility of the polls are equally important, she added, highlighting candidates must have equal access to political space during the campaign period and restrictions on peaceful demonstrations must be lifted consistently throughout the country.

A “level political playing field” will significantly enhance the credibility of polls and contribute to post-electoral stability the senior UN official said.

Ebola response

In her briefing Zerrougui, who also heads the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, MONUSCO, said armed group activity was hampering response to an Ebola outbreak in the north-east.
“We are seeing a growing number of cases in the major population centres Beni and Butembo and significant community resistance to response efforts,” she said, noting women are disproportionately affected, representing about 60% of all probable and confirmed cases.

This was due to a number of factors, including their roles as caregivers, she said, adding MONUSCO will continue to support Ebola response “as a matter of priority, taking into account a gendered-response lens.”

Zerrougui informed the Security Council refugees forced to return to DRC from Angola, continue to face challenges going home due to the pace of returns and limited capacity to receive them.
“There is the possibility for ethnic tension to flare up in certain areas of the Kasais,” she added, noting despite the remoteness of the area and a limited MONUSCO presence, the UN mission has supported relief partners and is engaging with Congolese and regional stakeholders.