The Southern African Development Community (SADC) says it is gravely concerned at the deteriorating political situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and has therefore called upon the government to establish conditions for a free and fair election ahead of the December 23 polls.

Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu, after a series of consultations with other Heads of State, says SADC is gravely concerned at the prevailing precarious political and security situation in the DRC.

“I wish to express my unwavering solidarity on behalf of the Government and people of the Republic of Zambia, with the Government and the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and therefore call upon all stakeholders to work together and exercise tolerance,” President Lungu says.

The President states that for the DRC to hold peaceful, inclusive, transparent and successful elections, the government must ensure that all citizens are safe, all candidates are allowed free space to campaign, and that election materials are secure and accessible to all registered voters.

“Your Excellency, it is with great sadness that I learnt of the death and injuries of nationals of the Democratic Republic of Congo due to some violence in Lubumbashi, Mbuji-Mayi and Kalemie. The blatant destruction of electoral materials at a warehouse in Kinshasa, which gravely hinders efforts made by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), is of grave concern,” President Lungu said in a letter to President Joseph Kabila today.

The Southern Development Community expresses solidarity with the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo in their endeavour to hold Presidential, Legislative and Provincial Elections on the 23rd of December 2018 and remain confident that a chance exists for the government to forestall an escalation in violence that claimed lives this week.

SADC notes the concerted efforts made by the Independent National Electoral Commission to prepare the logistics for holding successful elections within the mandated time frames but is gravely concerned at the destruction of electoral materials after the occurrence of a fire on 13th December 2018 at one of the central warehouses of CENI in Kinshasa.

“SADC is further concerned about the loss of life and destruction of property in the recent incidents of violence in Kalemie, Lubumbashi and Mbuji-Mayi.

SADC therefore calls on all political players to uphold the freedom of expression, assembly and unhindered campaigning, which are the hallmarks of the democratic exercise of the will of the people during this period.

“The elections are an essential requirement and important mechanism for peace, security and stability in DRC. Zambia therefore, calls on the various stakeholders to amicably resolve the prevailing political challenges and ensure that peace and stability are immediately restored,” President Lungu says.