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DRC: EU to send polls observer team 0

A European Union Election Observation Mission (EOM) will be in Democratic Republic of Congo six weeks in advance to monitor presidential and parliamentary elections to be held on November 28, 2011.

Catherine Ashton,  the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy says the decision forms part of EU continuing political support for the democratic process and comes on top of financial support amounting to EUR 47.5 million for the elections.  The Obersever Group will be led by Ms Mariya Nedelcheva, Member of the European Parliament.

Incumbent President Joseph Kabila will seek reelection and his government has been challenged to ensure that general elections are inclusive, transparent and peaceful.  As the 2011 election date approaches it has become increasingly evident that most of these opposition figures have vanished from the political landscape over the past five years. This poses serious questions about the challenge the opposition will be able to mount against incumbent President Kabila’s re-election.

The president will be challenged by opposition veteran Etienne Tshisekedi, leader of Union for Democracy and Social progress (UPDS), who boycotted previous elections on the grounds of irregularities. Other presidential candidates are Minister of Information and Honorary President of National Assembly Vital Kamerhe and Oscar Kashala – National President of Union for the Rebuilding of Congo or Union pour la Reconstruction du Congo (UREC) and Nzanga Mobutu, chairman of Union of Mobutist Democrats (UDEMO).

The government is also being urged to provide security for voters, civil society, media and opposition candidates. Such attacks were frequent during and immediately after the country’s 2006 general elections.  Only in June, a journalist with Radio Lubero Sud Mr. Witness-Patchelly Kambale Musonia was shot dead near his home in Kirumba in North Kivu province of the country.  The sixth journalist to be killed in the DRC’s troubled east since the last general elections, had reported on activities armed gangs and bandits in Kirumba area.

United Nations Security Council has told UN mission in Congo (MONUSCO) to take adequate and appropriate resources to protect civilians from attacks by Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and to avert election-related violence. According to international and Congolese Human Rights Groups, the UN mission in its current form is insufficiently prepared to respond to many challenges posed by ongoing violence from various groups , and which might peak up during the  upcoming presidential elections campaigns.

The organizations also urged the world address the LRA threats. Since September 2008, LRA has killed nearly 2,400 civilians and abducted about 3,400 others, many of them children. The LRA operates in Central African Republic, Southern Sudan and Northern DRC, where at least 107 new attacks have occurred since the year begun.  LRA and other armed rebel groups have displaced more than 500,000, with limited or no access to humanitarian assistance.

In addition to ongoing LRA attacks on civilians in northern Congo, there are high levels of violence, including killings and rape, in Congo’s eastern Kivu provinces by foreign troops like Rwandan Hutu rebel group- Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). Other threats include armed groups Congolese national army soldiers, including those newly integrated from National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) and other armed groups.

These rebel groups and other illegal networks fuel violence in the region through illicit trade in minerals and other natural resources. The rare and valuable minerals normally exploited by the rebels include diamond, tin, gold, tungsten and coltan. They are used to make high tech devices and special metals and therefore princely. It is known that the illegal mining and illicit trade in mineral resources are causes that drive conflict in Great Lakes Region and particularly in the DRC.

Positively, Congolese authorities have established specialized mixed courts to address serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, complemented by cooperation with International Criminal Court (ICC).  However, more judicial reforms and support for domestic courts are needed to ensure the rule of law and strengthen the fight against impunity.

By George Okore News from Africa

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