UN Security Council heads to DR Congo ahead of polls

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The UN Security Council is heading to the Democratic Republic of Congo this week ahead of December elections, amid tensions between Congolese authorities and the UN and concerns over a risk of poll violence.

The UN wants “free, fair and peaceful elections,” Karel Van Oosterom, Dutch ambassador to the global organization said Wednesday.

Van Oosterom will be among those in the Security Council delegation, joined by representatives from the United States, Bolivia, France and Equatorial Guinea.

The trip is planned Thursday to Monday and will be limited to Kinshasa.

The council hopes to meet with President Joseph Kabila, his prime minister and foreign minister, as well as the election commission and other stakeholders.

Diplomats will also meet UN peacekeepers via video links. The DR Congo hosts the UN’s biggest peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO, with some 17 500 troops and police.

Last week, Kabila called on the UN General Assembly to make a “substantial” start to withdrawing troops from his country.

Kabila vowed to “oppose any interference in the electoral process under way” and said the DR Congo would cover the full cost of the elections.

Britain, France and the United States have urged Kabila to state clearly that he would not seek another term amid fears that his failure to step aside could trigger violence.

The DR Congo has not known a peaceful transition of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.

Diplomats said friction between the UN mission and Kabila is leading to difficulties in flying aircraft to supply Moroccan and Indonesian UN troops.

“They are very fussy about giving approvals,” said one diplomat.

The UN will also discuss the fight against the Ebola epidemic in the east of the country, which was the subject of a closed Security Council meeting Wednesday.

“Members of Security Council highlighted the urgency of the medical response because the disease can spread rapidly, including to neighboring countries, possibly impacting regional stability,” the Council said in a statement.

DC Congo’s 10th Ebola outbreak since the first known case in 1976 came on August 1 in a highly restive northeastern region home to a clutch of armed groups near the border with Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan.

The latest outbreak has killed at least 101 people, according to the World Health Organization.