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Congo's president not running again in long-delayed election

AP  |  Kinshasa 

Congo's is not running again in December's long-delayed elections, easing concerns by the opposition and international community that he would try to stay in office and positioning one of Africa's most turbulent nations for what could be its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power.

will remain influential, however. He chose former Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, the ruling party's permanent secretary, as the candidate for the newly formed Common Front for coalition. Kabila is considered its moral authority.

announced the decision yesterday, just hours before the deadline for candidates to register.

The 57-year-old Shadary is among nine Congolese sanctioned by the last year for obstructing the electoral process and related human rights violations.

After submitting his candidacy, Shadary praised Kabila, saying he kept his word about not running for another term and that the submission was made under his moral authority.

"The people need peace...People have a need for social reconstruction. That's what we will do," he said.

International pressure had been growing on Kabila and his government over the election delay since late 2016, with the in June taking the unusual step of announcing visa bans on several Congolese senior officials but not naming names. It cited their involvement in "significant corruption" related to the electoral process.

Kabila, who came to power in 2001 after the assassination of his father, former Laurent Kabila, by law cannot run again after his mandate ended in late 2016. has blamed the election delay on the difficulties of organizing a vote in the vast country.

Demonstrations over the delay have turned deadly, with Pope and others appealing for calm after police in January used tear gas to disperse and others at a mass at to honor protesters killed.

The immediately called the decision by Kabila "a big step," while to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, welcomed the but said Congo's electoral commission must "take all steps necessary" to guarantee a free and fair vote. The UN said it welcomed "continued progress" toward that goal.

"Congo's regional and international partners must continue to exert strong pressure for the country to have a truly democratic transition and to prevent further repression," said Ida Sawyer, deputy director at

"We are still very far from a credible electoral process, and many things can happen by December, including additional delays." Sawyer pointed to the barring in recent days of opposition from entering the country to register as a candidate. He fled in 2016, months after resigning from the ruling party, as prosecutors announced their intent to try him on charges of hiring mercenaries, which he denied. His party did not register him in his absence.

As submissions closed yesterday, nearly 20 candidates had been registered, including three female candidates. They include the of Congo's largest opposition party,

Former Jean-Pierre Bemba, fresh from acquittal of war crimes on appeal at the International Criminal Court, had registered last week. He had been convicted for murder, rape and pillaging committed by his Movement for the Liberation of forces in neighboring in 2002 and 2003.

A surprise for many Congolese was the decision by Tryphon Kin-Kiey Mulumba, who had supported the idea of a third term for Kabila, to submit his candidacy.

Congo's constitutional court still has to rule on potential candidates' eligibility.

Whoever wins the December 23 vote takes over a vast country with trillions of dollars' worth of mineral wealth but with dozens of armed groups battling for a part of it.

Millions of Congolese have been displaced by various internal conflicts.

Unrest in the northeast poses a challenge to Congo's latest outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, with health officials comparing the situation to a war zone and the UN peacekeeping mission offering support.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, August 09 2018. 06:05 IST