Kinshasa - A high-powered group of special envoys urged the Democratic Republic of Congo to fix a date for presidential polls in 2016, amid concerns President Joseph Kabila will seek a third term at the head of the conflict-torn nation.
“We already have a calendar for local elections, we really want to have a global election calendar until December 2016,” said UN envoy and former Irish president Mary Robinson at a press conference late on Tuesday.
The envoys from the United Nations, African Union, European Union and United States wrapped up a two-day trip to evaluate the peace process in the Great Lakes region with a meeting with the election commission chief, Father Apollinaire Malu-Malu.
Robinson said the envoys were determined to “support the government in the intention to hold good and open elections”.
The DRC, a country nearly the size of western Europe perched atop massive natural resources, has been shattered by decades of strife and human rights abuses, particularly in the east.
At the end of May the election commission already announced delays to planned municipal, city and local elections which will take place on June 14, August 29 and October 15 next year.
Belgian Koen Vervaeke, the European Union envoy, said “we must very clearly see how the different elections... will be carried out so that we as partners can work with” the electoral commission.
The emissaries on Monday held a two-hour meeting with Kabila who many in the opposition fear is being urged by his inner circle to seek a third term.
Government spokesman Lambert Mende told AFP that Kabila had reiterated his concerns about certain diplomats who he said “cannot meddle in domestic affairs” and put pressure on the election body to “modify its calendar”.
Kabila became Africa's youngest leader at 29 when he was propelled into office after the death of his father in 2001 at the height of a civil conflict that became known as “Africa's Great War”.
He won elections in 2006 and 2011 amid violence and cries of foul play.
“We believe that it would be a big mistake for this country to not try to have better elections than they did in 2011,” said US envoy Russell Feingold.
“We need a calendar of all the elections. That means you don't just say the local elections is going to be at such and such a date and we'll talk to you later about the other election.
“The whole world wants to know: is Kabila going to move forward with democracy so that people can feel safe investing or is he going to move backwards?”