UN says election in Congo key to ending political crisis

A strategic review of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo says holding a long delayed presidential election that is credible will be key to ending the political crisis that is the main driver of the country’s increasing violence and human rights abuses.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned in the report to the U.N. Security Council that Congo risks “sliding back into conflict,” but he said President Joseph Kabila also has a “historic opportunity to cement his legacy” as the first Congo president to hand power to an elected successor.

In the 27-page report, obtained Monday by The Associated Press, Guterres said that “all efforts” must be geared to keeping alive a Dec. 31 agreement calling for elections by the end of 2017 and to “ensuring the protection of civilians and human rights.”

But the U.N. chief said that without tangible progress on completing voter registration, early publication of “a credible electoral calendar” and the implementation of confidence-building measures called for in the election agreement, Congo “is likely to enter a period of extreme volatility.” This will be marked “by increasingly open confrontation between the opposition and the government and greater unrest among a population facing untold hardship,” he said.

The vast Central African nation has seen widespread anger and unrest over Kabila’s stay in power after his mandate ended in December 2016. He is barred from running under the Dec. 31 agreement, but his government has delayed voting, saying preparations are not complete.

Kabila told the U.N. General Assembly’s annual ministerial meeting two…

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