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UN hopes Congolese can ‘freely’ vote after delay

Presidential, legislative and provincial elections had been scheduled for 30 December in the vast, volatile African country.

FILE: Electoral banners are displayed in the Ndjili district of Kinshasa on 19 December, 2018, after campaigning for Democratic Republic of Congo's general elections was called off in Kinshasa by the authorities on security grounds. Picture: AFP.

UNITED NATIONS - United Nations Security Council on Saturday said it hoped a week-long delay in the Democratic Republic Congo’s election will allow Congolese “to express themselves freely” during the ballot.

Presidential, legislative and provincial elections had been scheduled for Sunday in the vast, volatile African country, defusing a two-year crisis over the future of President Joseph Kabila.

But on Thursday the Independent National Election Commission (CENI) ordered the postponement, saying a warehouse fire had destroyed voting materials.

“The members of the Security Council expressed their hope that this delay will permit the creation of favourable conditions for the Congolese people to express themselves freely” on 30 December, the 15-member Council said in a statement.

It also “called on all parties to engage peacefully and constructively in the electoral process,” to ensure “a transfer of power in accordance with the Congolese Constitution and the 31 December 2016 Agreement.”

Kabila, 47, was due to step down at the end of 2016 after reaching the end of his constitutionally-limited two terms in office. But he stayed on, invoking a caretaker clause in the constitution.

Elections were postponed until the end of 2017 under a deal brokered by the powerful Catholic church - and then again until 2018, when Kabila eventually confirmed he would not run again.

The delay sparked protests that were bloodily suppressed and sparked an outcry from Western nations and the UN.

In its statement, the Security Council reiterated the readiness of MONUSCO, the UN peacekeeping mission in DR Congo, “to provide support if requested.”

Kinshasa has several times said it wants to organize the elections without financial aid or logistical support from the European Union or the UN.