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USING EAST WAR AS A SCAPEGOAT: Tshisekedi Hints DRC Election May Not Be Held On December 20

President Felix Tshisekedi has given a hint the December 20, 2023 elections may be disrupted due to the war in eastern Congo.

The population in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been skeptical the elections will take place this year despite the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) publishing a calendar and starting the voter registration exercise.

Most Congolese have anticipated that President Tshisekedi will use the war in the east to indefinitely extend his stay in power.

But with tension rising across the country, President Tshisekedi’s scheme to delay the election has the potential to plunge the Congo into widespread unrest.

According to Reuters, President Tshisekedi said on Monday that a conflict with rebels in the east of the country could disrupt preparations for general elections scheduled for Dec. 20.

Congo’s electoral commission started registering voters on Feb. 17 in North Kivu province, parts of which are occupied by the M23 rebel group, a Tutsi-led militia that has been waging an offensive against Congolese troops for almost a year.

The fighting has displaced hundreds of thousands of people, raising concerns about the state’s ability to prepare for the parliamentary and presidential elections later this year.

“The persistence of the war in the east of our country risks jeopardising the electoral process, which is already underway, due to a massive displacement of people from combat zones, the insecurity and the inaccessibility of these areas,” Tshisekedi told the U.N. Human Rights Council session.

Tshisekedi urged the international community to help Congo restore peace and state authority in this part of the country.

He again accused Rwandan authorities of supporting the M23. Rwanda denies backing the rebels.

Three Congolese and foreign electoral experts told Reuters the electoral commission could postpone the polls. It has already delayed the deadline for voter registration twice in more than a dozen western provinces due to technical problems.

Registration has so far been impossible in the territory under M23 control in North Kivu, one of Congo’s most populous provinces.

The Congolese government has asked the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to hold discussions between Congo, Rwanda and the U.N. agency about repatriating refugees, Tshisekedi added.

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame said in January that he would no longer accept refugees from Congo.

There are around 72,200 Congolese refugees in Rwanda and almost 210,000 Rwandan refugees in Congo, according to the UNHCR.

CREDIT: Reuters [additional reporting]

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