TWP-CongoElection-KabilaBy XANNIE BORSETH —

Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila’s promises of an election continue to fall short, while unrest, refugee shootings and calls for the end of United Nations interference rock the nation. 

Speaking to the U.N. General Assembly in New York Saturday, Kabila, who has been in power since 2001 and officially ended his term in office in December, outlined vague plans for the Congo’s first democratic transition.

“We can affirm that we are most certainly moving towards credible, transparent and peaceful elections,” Kabila said. But he said he was speaking out against international influence because “this is an irreversible process and this should be put in place without external diktats or interference.” Kabila also called on the United Nations mission in Congo, which hosts more than 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers, to focus more on development and change its approach to his country. 

Citing major logistical and security challenges as the reasons the election had not yet taken place, Kabila pointed out that 42 million people out of 45 million eligible citizens have already registered as voters. The election is schedules for before the end of this year, but election officials said in July that a vote by then is unlikely.

Problems implementing democratic practices are not the only conflicts affecting Congolese this year.  After a huge wave of Burundian refugees fled to Congo because of extreme political violence that has been characterized by human rights investigators as crimes against humanity, violence broke out between Congolese soldiers and Burundians.

In Kamanyola town, in eastern Congo, 39 of the Burundians were shot dead, a Congolese soldier was killed and 117 others were injured. The deadly altercation started when a group of Burundian refugees inquired about and began to protest the detention of other refugees, according to Jean-Chrysostome Kijana, a member of a Congo-based civil society group – as NGOs and other organizations in the country that bear social responsibility are called.

The incident led to the Burundians throwing stones and Congolese security forces shooting back. There was “an exchange of fire,” Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende said.  “Our soldiers have been attacked by armed persons not otherwise identified (who) are not refugees.”

The attack against the Burundians is the most recent act of violence in a tumultuous history involving the Congolese security forces, government-backed militias and local armed groups, whose military campaigns have resulted in the deaths of more than 3,000 people in the southern Kasai region since August 2016.

This violence is regarded by Kabila as one of the main reasons why elections cannot be organized this year. Kabila has defended the campaigns, citing terrorism as the source of the turmoil.

(Written by Xannie Borseth; Sept.25,2017)

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