Congo's president still coy on role in long-delayed election

Congo's President Joseph Kabila in a national address Thursday confirmed the long-delayed December election will go ahead but he still gave no indication what role he will play as the deadline for candidate announcements approaches.

Kabila's speech to the National Assembly and Senate had been widely anticipated as the opposition worries he will try to stay in power.

The president confirmed the Dec. 23 election date, adding that "our commitment to respect the Constitution remains unequivocal."

Kabila, upset by what his government has described as meddling by outsiders, said Congo must remain in control of its destiny and will fully fund the elections itself.

Congo is "not willing to receive lessons in democracy, especially not of those who murdered democracy in this country and elsewhere," he said.

The United States is among a number of Western countries that have expressed concern over delays in the election, which had been scheduled for late 2016.

Kabila's mandate ended in December 2016. His government has blamed the delays on the difficulties of organizing an election in the vast Central African country roamed by dozens of armed groups. The constitutional court has ruled that Kabila, in power since 2001, should remain in office until the vote, though he is barred from running for another term.

Candidates for president must declare by the first week in August.

In June the government launched the Common Front for Congo, bringing together a large number of political parties. Kabila is considered its moral authority, and some observers have expressed concern that this is another means for him to assert control.

Looking back over his stay in office, Kabila said he had "worked to create favorable conditions for the emergence of a strong and prosperous Congo," adding that what he accomplished once seemed impossible "because we inherited a catastrophic situation."


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