KINSHASA, Congo – Congo's president on Friday broke his silence on upcoming elections that have fueled tensions in this central African country for well over a year, promising a democratic process but declining to detail his political future.
President Joseph Kabila's second and final term under the constitution expires at the end of this year, but the opposition suspects the government will try to delay the vote to keep him in power.
Elections are currently scheduled for November. In Friday's speech in the eastern town of Kalemie, Kabila said voter registration would begin in July.
He also warned politicians against any bid to destabilize Congo, which has never had a peaceful transfer of power.
"To all those who want to intimidate us by saying that blood will flow if there aren't elections, if they come here ask them whose blood is going to flow?" said Kabila, who spoke in Swahili.
He said some Congolese wanted him to stay on.
"From the airport road I heard the crowd say that I should stay in power longer. Know that we are in a democracy and that means we are going to organize democratic elections in this country," Kabila said.
The president's remarks came one day after the U.N. Security Council urged his government to maintain a free, fair and timely electoral process while expressing concern over "recent arrests and detention of members of the political opposition."
Also on Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on a top Congolese police official who activists say is linked to dozens of deaths. The statement announcing the sanctions against Celestin Kanyama noted a "pattern of repression" by Kabila's government.
Congo's embassy in Washington called the move "an infringement on our sovereignty."