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Fri Oct 21 11:07:53 SAST 2016

Postponing DR Congo poll to 2018 will not solve crisis: France

AFP | 18 October, 2016 14:46
Kabila first came to power during wartime in 2001 after his father was slain by a bodyguard. File photo

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Tuesday that plans to postpone presidential elections in the troubled Democratic Republic of Congo until April 2018 were "no response to the crisis".

President Joseph Kabila's mandate is due to end in December and political tensions already run high in the vast country.

Postponement of the vote was announced Monday during a "national dialogue" in Kinshasa, boycotted by key opposition parties.

"To put off the election until 2018 will not solve the problem," Ayrault told journalists in Paris.

"There is only one way out of the crisis, for the president to announce that he will not run for office and for a date to be set for the election."

"The situation in the DRC greatly concerns us. There is a major risk of clashes and bloody demonstrations and repression," Ayrault said, weeks after dozens died and were injured during protests and a crackdown in Kinshasa.

The main opposition, united in a "Rassemblement" (Gathering) coalition, has dismissed the conference convened by Kabila's regime as a ploy to keep him in power beyond his second and final constitutional term, which began after he won a disputed election in December 2011.

The Togolese facilitator of the talks, Edem Kodjo, said participants had agreed that "presidential, legislative and local elections (will take place) six months after they are convened on October 30, 2017."

Kabila first came to power during wartime in 2001 after his father was slain by a bodyguard.

He went on to win an election in 2006 organised with the help of a large UN mission deployed to a nation rich in minerals and scarred by multiple conflicts.

The European Union on Monday condemned recent bloodshed, called for elections next year and threatened to "use all means at its disposal, including individual restrictive measures" targetting people accused of human rights violations.

Asked about possible EU sanctions, Ayrault said that "nothing is ruled out".

The national dialogue began on September 1 between the ruling majority, representatives of civil society and a minority fringe of the opposition to try to sketch a way forward.

Later last month, more than 50 people died in protests and clashes in the capital Kinshasa as the opposition pressed Kabila to step down. The Rassemblement has called for a general strike on Wednesday.



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