The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has welcomed progress made in preparations for historic elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, calling this a pivotal moment in the history of the beleaguered country.

In a briefing on their recent visit to the DRC where members met with the president, government, opposition parties and the electoral commission, the council believes it will be up to political forces to ensure that the country remains on a path of peace.

This as the UN Secretariat warned that opposition distrust of the electoral process remains while the use and deployment of electronic voting machines could prove to be a sticking point.

The goal of the visit was to forge long-term regional stability and to get a first-hand understanding of the situation, as it continues to evolve, on the ground. French Ambassador Francois Delatrre was the co-leader of the visit.

“This mission allowed us to bring a central message to the DRC, the DRC is at a pivotal moment in its history. For the first time a peaceful handover of power after the elections is possible, paving the way for the consolidation of stability in the DRC and creating conditions conducive to its development. This is a real reason for hope but its realization requires that all the political forces of the country unite to meet the wishes of the Congolese people,” says Delatrre.

With 73 days to go before the December 23rd election, the UN acknowledged that the process was evolving according to the electoral calendar, that major milestones had been achieved; the electoral law revised, the electoral roll drawn up and submitted for audit and that some 21 candidates have been validated to run for the Presidency of the Republic. But concerns do remain particularly around the use and deployment of electronic voting machines, as the Secretary General’s Special Representative Leila Zerrougui explains.

“As members of the Council in Kinshasa have repeatedly heard, the main leaders of the opposition have shown great distrust of the general process to which they still remain committed for the time being. They call in particular for the abandonment of the voting machine and the cleaning of the electoral roll. It is therefore essential that actors in the DRC reach a consensus on these issues so as not to compromise the acceptance of the results of the polls. It is in this spirit that I continue my good offices with determination.”

Concerns also remain as to how these machines would be transported to 90 000 polling places, their reliability and how voters would adapt to them.

Concerning the deployment in the field of these machines as well as all the electoral equipment, the President of the CENI assured that a first batch of voting machines had been received last Friday at the port of Matadi. He added that this pace of deliveries would continue in the coming weeks. It will then be necessary to transport this equipment throughout the Congolese territory, which, while the rainy season has just started and given the relatively short period of time until 23 December, represents a major logistical challenge.

France’s Ambassador Delattre again reminded the DRC Government of the UN’s capacity to assist with logistics in country.

“The Security Council finally shared in the full respect for the sovereignty of the DRC and in a constructive spirit of accompanying the country, we stated that MONUSCO stands ready to provide logistical and technical support to the elections if the need arises. This is the message that all 15 council members shared with all the political actors we met. Compromises will be needed on both sides and we hope that the spirit of responsibility among political leaders will prevail.”

Council also lamented the low participation of women – of the over 15-thousand candidates for the National Assembly and the almost 20-thousand for provincial houses, less than 12% of candidates are women.