The European Union yesterday (11 December) warned Democratic Republic of Congo it would cut off help to hold elections next year if the authorities failed to end “harassment” of the opposition and civil society.
In a statement, the 28-nation bloc said it was “critical” for the Kinshasa government to uphold the timetable of the much-delayed elections.
— Sasha Lezhnev (@SashaLezh) December 11, 2017
It also detailed a long list of abuses, including “acts of harassment toward opposition political figures, representatives of the media and civil society and defenders of human rights.”
The statement urged the release of all political prisoners, the lifting of “unjustified” prosecutions and the reopening of media outlets that had been closed.
“The EU calls on the respect for freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration,” the statement said, warning “the EU will evaluate implementation (of these measures) in implementing its technical and financial support” for the elections.
Separately, Belgium — DR Congo’s former colonial power — said it had earmarked five million euros in funding for the elections, “which will be released as soon as conditions are appropriate.”
A country struggling with deep poverty and corruption as well as strife in its eastern provinces, DR Congo is also in the grip of a political crisis over President Joseph Kabila.
In power since 2001 when he took over from his assassinated father Laurent Kabila, he refused to step down at the end of his second and final term in office in December 2016.
Elections were scheduled to be held by the end of 2017, under a political deal with the opposition aimed at avoiding bloodshed.
However, the ballot has been delayed with the country’s electoral commission blaming logistical problems. The country has now scheduled the vote for 23 December 2018.
On Monday, the Senate began a race against the clock to push through electoral reforms, facing a Friday deadline set by Kabila.
The package passed the National Assembly on 4 December, was boycotted by the opposition over measures that it said were crafted to buttress Kabila’s ruling PPRD party.
Their objections included the minimum threshold of the vote for elections, the use of voting machines in ballot stations and a high deposit — the equivalent of several hundred dollars — for candidates.
The EU also decided on Monday on a further one-year extension to sanctions against 16 senior members of the Kabila regime, including Interior Minister Ramazani Shadari.
The sanctions were first imposed in December 2016 and extended in May this year. Under the measures, targeted individuals are denied visas to the EU and any assets they may have in the bloc are frozen.