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AU Official: Congo Leadership Must Solve Problems

A top official of the African Union (AU) has given a blunt message to the leaders of the Democratic Republic of Congo, they must solve their own problems.

AU Commission Chairman Alpha Konare says more concerted efforts by the Congolese political class are crucial to resolving Congo's problems. Konare said these efforts must culminate in elections to put an end to the culture of seizing power by force in Congo

Rounding out two days of talks in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chairman Konare had a simple message.

While the international community could assist with money and advice, and African solidarity goes a long way, he said the responsibility of rebuilding and bringing democracy to Congo lies with the Congolese.

A desire to resolve problems through dialogue rather than warfare must prevail, the former Malian president told reporters. Konare's comments come as dates for Congo's elections, which are meant to draw a line under years of fighting, continue to slip.

Congo has endured two wars during the past decade, the last, which lasted from 1998 to 2003, sucked in six neighboring countries and killed four million people. Under the peace deal that ended the fighting, elections were supposed to take place last year.

But fighting in the eastern part of the country, wrangling in the capital, and logistical challenges made that impossible and a new date was set, June 18 of this year. Each step of the electoral process is taking longer than expected and June elections have been ruled out and no further date has been set.

Meanwhile, candidates for office keep appearing. As of now, Congo has 33 presidential hopefuls and nearly 10,000 people have signed up to run for 500 parliamentary seats.

The vote will be the first free and fair election in more than 40 years in Congo. But it is being threatened with a boycott by Etienne Tshisekedi, the head of the popular veteran opposition UDPS party. There are fears that a UDPS boycott would lead to violence and voting not taking place freely in parts of the vast mineral-rich country.

But after talks with Tshisekedi, Konare said the opposition leader had played a significant role in fighting for democracy, and the AU leader said he is confident that he will be part of the process.