UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday welcomed a political agreement in Congo calling for President Joseph Kabila to leave power after an election by the end of the year and urged “swift implementation.”
The council said in a presidential statement that it was encouraged “by the spirit of flexibility and compromise demonstrated by Congolese political leaders” in reaching the agreement.
Council members stressed the importance of the government and its partners taking “all necessary steps to accelerate preparations for the elections without further delays, within the timeframe.”
Kabila, who became president in 2001 after his father's assassination, was constitutionally barred from seeking a new term after his term expired Dec. 19, 2016. But November elections were never held and a court ruled he could stay in power until a vote is held. His party said voting wasn't possible before mid-2018 for logistical reasons.
The agreement to move up the election date was reached on New Year's Eve with mediation by Roman Catholic Church officials, following months of unrest sparked by Kabila's apparent attempt to stay in power. Dozens of people have died and the clashes threatened to further destabilize the vast Central African nation with a history of dictatorship and civil war.
France's U.N. ambassador, Francois Delattre, who sponsored the Security Council resolution, said after the vote that “it's a very important and positive move.”
Responding to reporters' questions before the vote over how the agreement can be implemented if Kabila reportedly has not yet signed it, Delattre said: “If the Security Council is fully behind the text, we believe it will be a strong encouragement for every player to implement it.”
The council reiterated “its commitment to support implementation of the agreement in close cooperation with the African Union.”
Council members also called on Congo's friends and economic development partners to support efforts “to ensure establishment of sustainable peace and security in the country.”
The Security Council said it will follow Congo's respect for human rights, security conditions on the ground, and “efforts to successfully conclude the electoral process, and to act accordingly.”