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US, UN Emphasize Respect for Constitution in DRC

FILE - DRC President Joseph Kabila

The United States and United Nations are urging Congo to abide by its election calendar and the two-term limit for presidents. The new U.S. special envoy to Africa's Great Lakes region, Amb. Thomas Perriello, spoke to media in the DRC capital this week after meeting with President Joseph Kabila.

According to the DRC constitution, presidential elections should be held by November 2016. A move by the government to organize a new census that might have delayed the elections provoked violent protests in January.

Visiting Kinshasa on Wednesday, Perriello told reporters he had productive meetings, including an important introductory conversation with Kabila.

"In the meeting with President Kabila, we were able to have a very constructive exchange about issues including armed groups and refugees in the east, timely and peaceful elections, as well as the situation in Burundi and the issue of adoptions," he said.

Rule of law

Asked what the U.S. could do to encourage respect for the constitutional two-term limit, Perriello said President Barack Obama has spoken of his personal deep belief and about the United States' collective deep belief in constitutionalism and the rule of law.

Respecting both of those concepts is essential for stability and development, said Perriello.

The conversation with Kabila about the electoral calendar and other key issues was positive, he said, adding he was sure there would be further talks on holding the presidential and legislative elections by the end of next year.

That same day, the head of the U.N. mission in Congo, Martin Kobler, also spoke to media about upcoming polls, including the provincial elections slated for this October.

Kobler was asked if MONUSCO is downplaying the importance of holding those elections at that time.

"I don’t know if it’s realistic to have local elections in October," he said.

"Our position is very clear," he said. "The constitution must be respected, the legislative and presidential elections must take place in November 2016 and nothing that happens between now and then should jeopardize the November 2016 date for the presidential elections."

A spokesman for civil society groups in North Kivu province, Djento Maundu, told VOA he agreed with Kobler that October is not a realistic date for holding local elections.

The problem, according to Mandu, is the government has not provided enough funding to the electoral commission. He also said he thought the prospect of presidential elections in 2016 is doubtful, as some opposition parties want to negotiate a transition with Kabila that could last three or four years.