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Britain’s Africa minister says DR Congo vote target ‘achievable’

Members of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s opposition party Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), Dori Dumbi (L), Felix Tshisekedi (2ndR), Andre Kabanda (R) and Mweka’s bishop Gerard Mulumba (2ndL) give a press conference on February 13, 2017 in Brussels following the death of UDPS’ president, Etienne Tshisekedi.

Kinshasa, DR Congo | AFP | Britain’s minister of state for Africa Rory Stewart met DR Congo authorities on Friday and said plans to hold long-deferred elections late next year were “achievable.”

The DRC had weathered months of unrest and violence over the vote, which was delayed by President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down on the expiry of his second and final term last December.

Under a compromise deal, the vote was scheduled to take place this year, but has since been pushed back until December 2018.

“I realise that the electoral process is fraught with challenges but it’s at the same time a process which is not impossible to conduct. We believe that this is achievable,” a French statement from Congo’s national election commission quoted Stewart as saying.

Stewart met Kabila earlier in the day — the first Western minister to do so after the Congolese announced that the election would be held on December 23 next year.

In a statement on Monday supporting the December 2018 timetable, the US State Department said the DRC had taken “a significant step toward realising its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power”. The EU also followed suit.

But Washington also noted “the importance” of Kabila abiding by the constitution and pledges reached under a compromise agreement last year to step down following elections.

The 46-year-old has been president since 2001 after taking over from his assassinated father, Laurent.

Congolese prosecutors meanwhile Friday sought a three-year jail-term for rights activist Timothee Mbuya, who is accused of organising “an anarchic march” in the country’s second-largest city Lubumbashi, and inciting “civil disobedience.”

Mbuya was arrested on July 31 during the march calling for the government to quickly announce the new election date.a

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