Trump envoy tells DR Congo elections must be held in 2018

Kinshasa (AFP) –


The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, told the Democratic Republic of Congo to hold elections next year, rather than delay them until 2019, if it wanted to count on American backing.

"Elections must be held in 2018, (otherwise) the DRC should not count on the support of the United States and the international community," Haley said, after meeting Corneille Nangaa, head of DRC's National Electoral Commission.

"We are not going to support a timetable which doesn't clearly show that the elections will be held in 2018," she said, according to a French translation of her remarks.

"It is possible (to do), provided all parties get involved."

Haley arrived late Wednesday for a two-day visit to assess the humanitarian, security and political crisis besetting the vast, mineral-rich central African country.

Polls in DRC were scheduled to be held by the end of 2017, under a transitional deal with the opposition aimed at avoiding fresh political bloodshed after President Joseph Kabila refused to step down when his second mandate ended last December.

The international community has pressed for a vote to choose a new head of state to be held as soon as possible -- but no timetable has been set so far.

The electoral commission responsible for organising the ballot says holding the vote will be impossible before early 2019.

It blames unrest in the central region of Kasai, which has delayed efforts to compile a roll of voters.

Earlier Friday, Haley visited the headquarters of the influential Catholic church, which brokered the December 31, 2016 compromise.

She urged bishops to "get involved" in ending the deadlock.

"For every day which goes by without holding elections, a woman is raped, a child has an unwanted pregnancy, children are inducted by armed groups," she said.

Father Donatien Shole, the spokesman for the bishops, said after the meeting that the church looked to the international community for "support" so that the elections could be held "as soon possible".

On Thursday, Haley visited a displaced people's camp at Kitchanga in the strife-ravaged eastern DRC. She is scheduled to leave the country later Friday.

It is the first trip to Africa for Haley, who is the most senior Trump administration official to visit the continent. She arrived from South Sudan, and previously, Ethiopia.