|UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 29, 2018 -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on all parties in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to ensure an environment free of violence for the upcoming elections slated for Sunday, the UN spokesperson said in a statement.
As the DRC prepares for presidential, legislative and provincial elections, "the secretary-general calls on the authorities of the DRC, political leaders on all sides, the Commission Electorale Nationale Independante and civil society to continue working together to ensure an environment free of violence so that all eligible voters can cast their ballots peacefully on election day," the statement said.
Guterres further encouraged citizens to seize this historic opportunity to participate in the consolidation of the country's democratic institutions, it added.
He reminded all actors that they have a critical role to play in preventing electoral violence, by refraining from any form of provocation and showing maximum restraint in their words and actions, while reiterating the continued commitment of the UN to support a peaceful transition of power in the DRC.
The DRC elections were long overdue. A Dec. 31, 2016 agreement allowed President Joseph Kabila, who has been in power since 2001, to stay on after his term of office had expired, on the condition that elections would be held within 2017.
But elections were delayed on the grounds of logistics, triggering unrest. In November 2017, the country's electoral commission published an electoral calendar for the combined presidential, legislative and provincial elections scheduled for Dec. 23, 2018.
But after a recent warehouse fire destroyed thousands of voting machines earmarked for the Congolese capital of Kinshasa, the commission ordered the elections to be moved Dec. 30 to get more time for preparations.
On Wednesday, it declared the vote would be postponed again in violence-hit parts of the country.
However, the elections will still go ahead elsewhere and the new president will be sworn in on Jan. 18 as scheduled, the commission has said.