DRC: Court Approves Postponement of Presidential Election

KINSHASA OCTOBER 18, 2016 (CISA) – The Constitutional Court in Democratic Republic of Congo on October 17 approved a petition by the electoral commission to delay the presidential election set for November 2016.

The petition means President Joseph Kabila who was due to step down in December 2016 when his two-term mandate expires will remain in office until April 2018.

The delay of election until April 2018 due to what the authorities termed logistical problems sparked two days of protests in Kinshasa last month that killed dozens of people.

President Kabila, who came to power in 2001 when his father was assassinated, says he will respect the country’s constitution but has yet to rule out attempting to change laws to enable him to run for a fresh term.

The president’s opponents fear he will first prolong his term in office and then change the constitution to enable him to run again following the example of the presidents of neighboring Rwanda and Congo Republic, who changed their constitutions last year to allow themselves to stand for a third term.

Following the courts announcement European Union foreign ministers said they would prepare economic sanctions against Congo unless it held presidential and parliamentary elections next year.

“The EU will use all the means at its disposal, including individual restrictive measures,” EU foreign ministers said in a statement on October 17, reported Reuters.

The statement added that sanctions would target “those responsible for serious human rights violations, those who promote violence and those who would try to obstruct a consensual and peaceful solution to the crisis”.

“There is a delay to elections that is not acceptable and I hope elections can take place in 2017,” Belgium’s Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said during a press conference adding.  “We need an inclusive dialogue and not to resort to violence.”

EU governments further said they will also reduce the duration of diplomatic visas issued to officials, after Belgium cut its visas to six months.

“Member states are already in agreement on the need to coordinate their approaches to the issuance of visas for holders of diplomatic and service passports,” the statement said.

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