Saturday, 30 January 2016

UPDATE: New Congo timetable extends Kabila's time in office as UN flags 'dramatic rise' in rights abuses

UPDATE: New Congo timetable extends Kabila's time in office as UN flags 'dramatic rise' in rights abuses

Investors on edge as a chart prepared by the elections commission shows it would be impossible to hold a presidential ballot this year.

A timetable prepared by the Democratic Republic of Congo’s electoral commission makes it impossible for the country to hold a presidential election scheduled for this year.

This came as the United Nations warned Wednesday of a sharp rise in rights abuses, holding government officials responsible for half of them as political tensions rise ahead of the uncertainty of the elections.

In the chart prepared January 14, the National Independent Electoral Commission, or CENI, shows it would take more than 13 months to partially revise the voter register in order for the election to take place.

A full revision would take 16 months and cost as much as $290 million, according to the schedule.

The timetable was published on the Twitter account of Michael Tshibangu, a UK-based lawyer who heads the Association for Development and Democracy in Congo. 

The chart has been circulated to ambassadors in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, over the past two weeks, said a diplomat who declined to be identified because he isn’t authorised to speak to the media. 

CENI didn’t respond to two e-mails and two phone calls requesting comment on the schedule.

‘Designed to Fail’

Congo, the world’s largest source of cobalt, had been preparing to hold six elections over 13 months culminating in the vote for a new president in November. Votes to elect new governors and provincial assemblies in October were delayed and other election preparations have been slow. 

Opposition groups say the election programme is designed to fail and allow President Joseph Kabila to extend his presidency beyond a second term, which the constitution stipulates should be his final one.

Protests over this in January last year saw at least 40 people killed and the government drop a census plan that was perceived as meant to aid Kabila stay on in office.

jose Maria Aranaz, the UN’s rights chief in DR Congo, told a press conference his office had “reported a dramatic rise in human rights violations” in 2015, a 64% increase in cases compared to 2014.

“In total, we have registered 3,847 violations of human rights violations in the territory,” he said as he presented his annual report.

The UN believes government officials committed 49% of the reported violations, which included 294 extrajudicial killings.Aranaz’s office said 260 of the cases were linked to DR Congo’s fraught electoral process, which has seen political tensions soar.

Kabila won disputed 2006 and 2011 elections and has not said if he will step down, helping fuel the tension.

Risks destabilising

Delaying the elections risks destabilising a country where mining companies including Baar, Switzerland-based Glencore Plc, Phoenix, Arizona-based Freeport McMoRan Inc. and Johannesburg- based AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. operate, according to analysts including Christoph Wille at Control Risks in London.

Congo’s voter register, which was last updated before the presidential vote in December 2011, shows that 82% of Congo’s eligible voters, or 30.7 million people, are registered, according to a November report by the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, commissioned by CENI. 

About 7 million new voters between the ages of 18 and 22 need to be enrolled and as many as 1.6 million deceased and 300,000 duplicate voters need to be removed, it said. Congo’s 2016 budget includes 537.8 billion francs ($58 million) for the organisation of elections this year. 

Partners including the United Nations and the European Union have said they are ready to support the voter registration process. 

(Bloomberg, AFP)