Congolese President Joseph Kabila put off a planned visit by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and refused to see UN US Ambassador Nikki Haley, who diplomats said separately planned to visit Kinshasa.
Kabila, who succeeded his assassinated father Laurent in 2001, was busy organising December 23 elections and postponed a visit by Guterres and African Union Commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat, Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende said.
“As for Nikki Haley I don’t see why and how the president’s refusal to see her has created so much controversy. She was already in Democratic Republic of Congo and met President Kabila,” Mende said.
Haley met privately with Kabila for 90 minutes in Kinshasa in October, warning him “a relationship with the United States is dependent on how he acts going forward.” Diplomats said she planned to visit again this week.
The US mission to the UN was not immediately available for comment on Haley’s trip.
“Is it the case that in all African countries in the middle of the electoral process these same visitors come to verify if preparations are going in the right direction? If yes, they are also welcome in our country,” Mende said.
Kabila was required by the constitution to step down in December 2016 but the election to replace him has been repeatedly delayed.
Since then, security forces killed dozens of anti-Kabila protesters while surging militia violence raised the spectre of a repeat of civil wars around the turn of the century that cost millions of lives.
Term limits prevent Kabila from running for office again, but he refused to publicly commit to leaving office and some supporters recently floated a legal rationale that would allow him to stand again.
Candidates are due to register for the presidential election between July 25 and August 8.
UN spokesman Farhan Haq said there were no “firm plans” for Guterres to visit Kinshasa. “If and when he’s ready to go there, we’ll let you know,” Haq told reporters.
Guterres is currently in Ethiopia at the African Union and diplomats said he planned to visit Democratic Republic of Congo this week. The United Nation’s largest and most expensive peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO, is in the country, where some 18,000 UN troops and police are deployed.
The Congolese foreign ministry said in a statement Guterres and Faki “remain welcome in Kinshasa at a date to be agreed on jointly.”