Crackdown in Congo Limits Chances of Credible Elections, UN Says

(Bloomberg) -- The Democratic Republic of Congo’s chances of holding credible elections are waning due to the government’s repression of the media and civil society, a United Nations official said.

“The space required for a credible electoral process is rapidly shrinking,” Georgette Gagnon, field operations director with the UN Human Rights Office, told reporters Friday in the eastern city of Goma at the conclusion of a week-long visit to the central African country.

The UN rights-monitoring body has documented violations against 225 members of civil-society organizations and 31 journalists this year, she said. Communications Minister Lambert Mende said by phone he didn’t know what Gagnon was talking about and it seemed “everyone wants to dramatize the situation” in Congo.

Gagnon also referred to “mounting uncertainty over the timing of the elections.” President Joseph Kabila was supposed to step down at the end of his constitutionally limited second term in December 2016, but the vote for his replacement has been delayed, sparking protests.

Under an agreement between Kabila’s parliamentary coalition and the opposition, the elections are meant to take place by late this year. Congo, Africa’s biggest copper producer, has never had a peaceful transfer of power.

While the government said Aug. 23 that the electoral commission had registered 95 percent of eligible voters, South African President Jacob Zuma, in closing remarks to a summit of the Southern African Development Community just three days before, said the meeting “noted it might not be possible to hold elections in December 2017” in Congo.