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African Union Endorses DRC Election Calendar, Calls for Dissident Opposition to Support Peaceful Election Process

By David Greenwald

Last week, the Independent Election Commission of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (CENI) published a timetable for the next national referendum. This election, scheduled for December 23, 2018, will incorporate not just the Presidential Election, but hundreds of provincial, regional and local elections encompassing tens of thousands of candidates. Despite dissident opposition calls for bloody violence and abandonment of the constitution to attempt to overthrow the election and lock in their own power, independent authorities in the region and around the world are calling for support of the election process.

Africa's most influential organization of nations, the African Union, this week announced their support for the process and timetable. The Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, Moussa Faki Mahamat said that the publication of this timetable was “noted with satisfaction,” and reiterated “the commitment of the African Union, in close cooperation with the appropriate regional organisations, the United Nations and other partners, to accompany and support the electoral process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to help the Congo to successfully achieve this democratic milestone, in accordance with its Constitution.” It is important to note that the AU not only supports this election, but confirms that CENI's election process fully conforms with the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The African Union's statement is the most recent show of support for the DRC's election timetable. Notably, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley met with both the independent CENI commission and President Joseph Kabila recently in the DRC, and then ratified the 2018 election timeline. And Acting Secretary of State Donald Yamamoto supported the new election timeline in his comments at a hearing today, November 9th: “Our immediate focus is to support stability in the DRC through genuinely free and fair elections that are credible and inclusive, and lead to a peaceful, democratic transfer of power. With the November 5 announcement by the DRC's electoral commission, the CENI, that elections will be held in December 2018, we have an opportunity to support the Congolese people achieve a historic democratic transfer of power.”

Therefore, the actions of dissident opposition to call for a bloody coup through violence and civil unrest are now being subjected to harsh criticism. The African Union statement included a clear warning to “demonstrate a spirit of responsibility and to refrain from any statements or acts likely to heighten tension.” But these opposition dissidents, like Moise Katumbi, a fugitive from justice in the DRC, are so hungry for power that it is their desire to undermine and violate the constitution.  In a recent tweet, Katumbi said (translated): “This predatory régime wants to prolong population misery and instability. We will not accept this fantasy calendar. Stop. Kabila has to go.” In another tweet, opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi called for ignoring CENI through a coup (translated): “Never mind CENI, it's calendar will signal the end of this evil regime. Get ready Congolese, time has come to kick out Kabila.” And opposition political party head Eve Bazaiba threatened the head of the CENI commission (translated): “(Commission head) Nangaa, you and your masters, are playing with fire! Your children will have difficulties carrying your names. You are defying the Congolese people.” These incitements to violence have been met with immediate an overwhelming criticism.

As Acting Secretary of State Yamamoto noted in his testimony, the risk of opposition violence is real, and the United States is prepared to deal with it harshly: “The opposition has responsibilities, as well, including to refrain from calls for violence or any unconstitutional transfer of power. All parties need to focus on the goal of elections. We are prepared to evoke punitive measures on any actor that leads calls for violence.”

As the DRC moves towards free, fair and open lections, all civilized nations should follow the examples of the African Union and the US Government in supporting this complex process, and demanding that dissidents immediate stop their efforts to undermine it.