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DRC Budget Minister Casts Doubt on 2017 Elections


FILE - A policeman sits atop a minibus carrying empty ballot boxes to a central counting center in Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa.

The budget minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo has cast doubt on whether the country will be able to finance elections this year. His statement has sparked concern as delaying the polls last year led to violent unrest.

DRC Budget Minister Pierre Kangudia gave reporters the news Wednesday. He said it will not be possible to disburse $1.8 billion from this year’s budget to organize elections in 2017.

That hardly comes as a surprise. Total government spending for 2017 is expected to be around $5.2 billion, according to the most recent budget submitted to the National Assembly, which has yet to approve a public spending plan for this year.

The budget minister’s words have angered the opposition. A deal signed on News Years’ Eve with the ruling alliance stipulates some of the nationwide polls postponed from last year should take place in late 2017, including the presidential election.

VOA spoke to Delly Sessanga, a signatory of the agreement from the opposition.

He said the minister’s declaration demonstrates the government is going down a path completely different to that of organizing elections. He said the government must leave to be replaced by a responsible one capable of taking the country to elections.

The president of the electoral commission, known as CENI, cited the $1.8 billion figure in early December when he presented the budget to cover the electoral process. That includes compiling a completely new voter list, an initiative launched last August, as well as holding presidential, parliamentary and local polls in this vast and poorly connected country.

FILE - Incumbent Congo President Joseph Kabila holds the Congolese flag as he takes the oath of office as he is sworn in for another term, in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.
FILE - Incumbent Congo President Joseph Kabila holds the Congolese flag as he takes the oath of office as he is sworn in for another term, in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Delaying last year's elections has allowed President Joseph Kabila to stay in office beyond his constitutional two-term limit.

The opposition says that was and remains Kabila's intention.

But the DRC budget minister said while the government is unable to deliver $1.8 billion to the CENI, that does not mean there will not be elections this year. The New Year’s Eve agreement urges the government to mobilize resources both internally and from the international community.

But there is another hurdle. The deal also calls for the installation of a new national unity government led by a prime minister from the opposition. Six weeks later, that has not happened. The details still have not been sorted out.

On Thursday, the African Union, European Union, United Nations and International Organization of the Francophonie released a joint statement expressing concern about the delay and calling on the signatories to redouble their efforts for DRC elections.

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