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Security challenges threaten DRC elections: UN envoy

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-10-12 04:00

UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 11 - The top UN envoy in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) warned on Thursday that the lack of security poses a threat to the upcoming presidential and legislative elections in the country.

As the DRC moves toward elections in December, the complexity of the security situation and the continuing activities of armed groups in the east of the country continue to pose a major challenge, Leila Zerrougui told the Security Council.

Securing the elections is a prerequisite for credible and peaceful polls. It is important to ensure the security of the candidates, but also to provide an environment in which the campaign and the actual polls will take place, said the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC.

It is difficult to secure the areas where armed groups are stationed, which are increasingly using the political agenda for the benefit of their own interests, she said.

The UN envoy recommended the establishment of electoral security mechanisms as well as the strategic coordination of the various national defense and security entities.

She expressed specific concern about current developments in Beni in North Kivu province.

Presumed Allied Democratic Forces continue to stage near-daily attacks on civilians, the armed forces of the DRC, and the UN mission that is known by its French acronym as MONUSCO.

To make things worse, the attacks have made the response to an Ebola outbreak in the area increasingly challenging, she said.

So far, there have been 194 confirmed or probable cases, and 120 deaths in the Beni health zone and surrounding areas, now including a town neighbouring Uganda.

Zerrougui reported that the electoral process is evolving according to the electoral calendar. Decisive milestones have been reached, she said, noting that the electoral law has been revised, the electoral register drawn up and submitted to an audit.

Twenty-one candidates have been validated to compete for the presidency, 15,505 candidates for the National Assembly and 19,640 candidates for provincial legislatures.

DRC's elections were long overdue. A political agreement on Dec. 31, 2016 allowed President Joseph Kabila, who has been in power since 2001, to stay on after his term of office expired, on the condition that elections would be held within 2017. But elections were delayed on the grounds of logistics. On Nov. 5, 2017, the country's electoral commission published an electoral calendar for the combined presidential, legislative and provincial elections for Dec. 23, 2018.

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