GOMA, DRC —
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s information minister is denying a report that one of his colleagues said DRC elections, slated for next year, will have to be delayed up to four years.
Saturday, the Reuters news agency quoted ruling coalition spokesman Andre Alain Atundu as saying a national census would need to be carried out and voter rolls revised to ensure the credibility of a vote, so people need to allow two to four years for elections to be organized.
But in a text message Sunday, Information Minister Lambert Mende told VOA the report was false. He asked where and when Atundu had made this statement. He suggested it had been circulated by pranksters on social media.
A Reuters reporter told VOA he had been present with a number of other journalists when Atundu made the statement.
The report is being taken seriously by leading opposition politician Moise Katumbi, a likely presidential contender who issued a statement saying, “The ruling coalition's call to delay national elections is troubling.” He said the people wanted regular, free, fair, and transparent elections, starting with a national election in the fall of 2016.
Katumbi has called for anyone choosing to protest the possible delay to do so peacefully, for the strength of the country. In January, a legislative proposal to delay the DRC elections triggered protests in which at least 40 people died, according to Human Rights Watch.
U.S. Undersecretary of State for Democracy Sarah Sewall said last week during a visit to Goma that it was important to update voter rolls in Congo, but she suggested this was not a reason for delaying elections.
"It is our view that the registration process does not need to be lengthy. One of the concerns about not having youth registered is that people could question the legitimacy of the outcome of the elections, given the numbers involved. So our view is that we should move swiftly toward the registration of those who have reached majority," she said.
Critics of DRC President Joseph Kabila have often accused him of wanting to cling to power in defiance of the constitution's two-term limit. He has denied seeking to change the constitution.