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US Says Congo Should Not Delay Elections

The U.S. State Department says it believes the elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo should go forward as planned on Sunday, despite calls for a delay.

Following a successful constitutional referendum last December, the Democratic Republic of Congo is scheduled to hold elections on Sunday for the first time since 1960. Some opposition parties and even Congo's Catholic church have raised questions about the ability of the nation to hold a free and fair election and some have called for a postponement.

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer told reporters she believes the D.R.C. is ready to hold free and and fair elections. She says 26 million of 28 million eligible voters have already registered. She says Congo's election commission has opened 50,000 polling stations and hired more than 300 thousand poll workers to run them.

Frazer says U.N. and Congolese security forces will be in place to ensure transparency in the election process and she dismissed opposition calls for a delay. "You can delay forever expecting a perfect election process but even in the most developed democracies, it's rare that you have a perfect election process. So 26 million Congolese have gone out, registered, they want to vote. Let's get on with it," he said.

Frazer says it is significant to note the contribution made by African nations to support Congo's election process. The South African Development Community is sending observers and other neighboring nations have contributed money and security forces. She says South Africa made a particularly significant contribution with the printing of ballots and election materials.

Frazer will head a delegation to observe the elections, which she says is an indication of U.S. support "Going to observe this election shows the importance of the Congo and America's commitment to a democratic consolidation and an end of the war process. And so we are not just trying to go from war to peace but from war to democracy," he said.

Frazer says the real work will begin following the election. She says the U.S. has committed to helping the Congo rebuild its infrastructure to help the new government deliver services and protect its people.