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UN mission in DR Congo urged to play stronger role in polls

President Joseph Kabila

Kinshasa, DR Congo | AFP | A body linked to the powerful Catholic Church in Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday called on the United Nations to strengthen its role during December elections.

The Lay Coordination Committee (CLC), which has held marches against President Joseph Kabila, said it was asking the UN for “more resources to the UN mission in Congo for the protection of civilians during the pre-electoral and post-electoral period”.

In a letter to UN chief Antonio Guterres, the CLC said it also wanted Kabila’s government to implement a string of measures such as the release of political prisoners and dropping of legal proceedings against opponents by April 30.

It would suspend its protests until that date but would be “obliged to resume and intensify them” if they were not forthcoming, it added.

The CLC also called for bans on demonstrations to be lifted. The authorities have banned the three marches it has called since the end of last December.

In February, the main opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), backed one of the marches against Kabila who took over from his assassinated father in 2001.

His regime, widely criticised for corruption, repression and incompetence, faces mounting protests over his refusal to leave office after his term expired in December 2016.

The Catholic Church brokered an accord under which Kabila could remain in power provided new elections were held in 2017 — a deal that fell through after the electoral authorities said it needed more time to compile a voters’ register.

It wants him to pledge to stand aside in the presidential vote set for December 23 this year, and to respect fundamental freedom.

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