DR Congo says visit by UN chief would be ‘inopportune’ amid poll preparations

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is currently preparing for elections. (AFP pic)

KINSHASA: A visit by UN Secretary General António Guterres to the Democratic Republic of the Congo would be “inopportune”, a leading presidential aide said Sunday as the country prepares for twice-delayed elections.

In response to “the wish of the UN secretary general to visit the DRC… we thought it was inopportune at this time,” presidential diplomatic adviser Kikaya Bin Karubi tole AFP.

He cited “the pressing business of the country and the negotiations that are under way” at a time when Western powers are urging President Joseph Kabila to state clearly that he will not seek re-election.

Kabila has been critical of the UN peacekeeping mission to the DRC (MONUSCO), which has pledged to protect civilians in the run-up to the elections now set for December 23.

In late January, Kabila said MONUSCO should leave the vast, conflict-wracked central African country by 2020 at the latest.

MONUSCO spokeswoman Florence Marchal told AFP that “no date has been announced” for a visit by Gutteres. “For now, nothing is planned.”

MONUSCO, with some 17,000 troops and an annual budget of US$1.153 billion (RM4.652 billion), is one of the world’s largest UN peacekeeping missions. The UN Security Council renewed its mandate in March.

Kabila was obligated to step down as president at the end of 2016 after he reached his two-term constitutional limit, but he refusted and now a constitutional clause has allowed him to remain in office until his successor is elected.

Escalating tension over Kabila’s future has fuelled protests, leading to a security crackdown that has claimed dozens of lives and caused concern among the DR Congo’s neighbours.