The correct conduct of the elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo at the end of next year is “a priority” for Belgium. Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said this on Thursday before a meeting with Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
“It is clear that a good organization of the elections is a priority”, underlined De Croo (Open Vld). According to the prime minister, the approval of the electoral law already meets expectations, but “much things still need to be done” to respect the election calendar, De Croo made clear. The previous elections took place at the end of 2018, two years behind schedule on the original calendar. After a disputed election result, Tshisekedi was eventually named president. This time, De Croo insists on transparency. “The more transparency, the better one can guarantee the correct conduct of the elections,” said the prime minister, who welcomed Kinshasa’s indication that it would admit international observers.
De Croo insisted that in the last year of this term of office, the Congolese government must urgently implement the promised economic reforms, primarily in the fight against corruption. “They got stuck in intentions. In terms of legal certainty and business climate, there is insufficient progress compared to the promises,” said the Belgian head of government. “Time is running out”. Development Cooperation Minister Meyrame Kitir (Vooruit) pointed out that governance, transparency and the fight against corruption are a pillar of the new cooperation program that is currently being prepared. The program of 250 million euros for the next five years should be completed by the end of this year. Congo is the main partner country of Belgium, which is the fourth largest donor to the former colony.
Belgium also advocates a thorough redesign or replacement of the UN peacekeeping mission Monusco, which, despite 14,000 troops and an annual budget of one billion euros, fails to protect the local population against the violence of armed groups in eastern Congo. The mandate expires at the end of this year.
The Belgian government is looking with an open mind to the future of the UN presence in the country. Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib (MR) warned that “a vacuum” must be avoided that would only strengthen the presence of armed groups in the east. Violence in the resource-rich region has flared up again in recent months.
Lahbib, who also met her Rwandan counterpart in New York this week, urged Congo and Rwanda to engage in dialogue and efforts to disarm and demobilize the armed groups, “whether FDLR or M23.”
In Rutshuru, North Kivu, one person was killed on Thursday in a demonstration by the local population against the Congolese army’s inability to fight against M23, the rebel group that still occupies the town of Bunagana, a hub for trade on the border with Uganda.
According to Congo, Rwanda supports the M23 rebels. Kigali again states that Congo supports the FDLR rebels. Both countries deny each other’s allegations.