Congo Constitutional Crisis Inflames, Violence Likely

An U.N. peacekeeper holds his radio as he patrols after violence erupted due to the delay of the presidential elections last September in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: John Bompengo / Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS — The electoral crisis in Congo has become a constitutional crisis resulting in increasing political polarization and with no immediate end in sight, the U.N.’s special representative for Congo said Tuesday.

Maman Sambo Sidikou told the Security Council that parties on all sides appear increasingly willing to resort to violence to achieve their ends.

“If this trajectory continues, I believe large-scale violence is all but inevitable,” Sidikou said, adding that the scope of the threats “dramatically outstrip the (U.N. peacekeeping) mission’s capabilities.”

Tensions in Congo have risen as it has become increasingly apparent that President Joseph Kabila will stay in office after his term expires in December. Congo’s electoral commission said November’s scheduled presidential vote wouldn’t be possible until 2018, and a court has said Kabila can stay in power until the next election.

Dozens died in the capital Kinshasa in late September after security forces clashed with thousands of anti-government demonstrators opposed to delaying the election.

The opposition parties also called for restructuring the electoral commission and the Constitutional Court, saying they are partisan to Kabila, who came to power after his father’s assassination in 2001.

Sidikou said discussions over the election date were ongoing and that he hoped it could be held, “the sooner the better.”

He told the council it should encourage all parties currently boycotting the electoral process to return to dialogue and that the government should be prompted to take confidence building measures with the opposition, including direct engagement between Kabila and opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi.

He also said regional organization including the African Union should work with the U.N. to engage more directly and designate a high level emissary to bridge political divisions.

Story: Michael Astor