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UN envoy calls for dialogue ahead of December elections in DRC

UNITED NATIONS (Xinhua) -- The special representative and head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), Leila Zerrougui, on Monday called for dialogue ahead of the December elections in the country.

Zerrougui told members of the Security Council that “tangible progress has been made” on the ongoing electoral process. Despite this progress, she said, the coming period before the elections on Dec. 23 “will be marked by disputes and intense political consultations.”

She encouraged all parties to continue to engage in dialogue.

Zerrougui said that the perceived credibility of the electoral process “remains a key concern” and that this could heighten tensions in the country.

She added that “more meaningful inclusion of women” in the electoral process is a priority, and there should be “no intimidation of political activists and human rights defenders.”

Zerrougui called for the lifting of the general ban on public demonstrations and upholding the freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, which are crucial to making meaningful progress as the holding of elections draws nearer.

A number of Security Council members said that the UN is willing to offer logistical aid for the coming elections in the DRC, which has rejected all offers of help.

Anne Gueguen, deputy permanent representative of France to the UN, describing the upcoming elections as a “watershed” and a chance for the DRC to recommit to the path of peace, said it also represents a responsibility on the part of all stakeholders.

The elections must take place “in a climate of trust,” she said, calling for the inclusion of women and the release of political prisoners, in accordance with the Saint-Sylvestre agreement.

While welcoming Kinshasa’s decision to take charge of financing and logistics for the elections, she nevertheless stressed that MONUSCO stands ready to “offer further technical support” and has the means to do so.

The DRC’s ambassador to the UN, Ignace Gata Mavita, defended the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), his country’s electoral committee.

“The results achieved so far by CENI should allow us to trust in the institution and allow it to carry out its mission without interference in its work based on considerations which owe more to speculation than reality,” he said.

Cheng Lie, a member of the Chinese delegation to the UN, urged the Security Council to support efforts by the African Union and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, as well as regional countries, to play a leading role in mediation, and in helping to enhance engagement among political parties.

The focus should be on the government’s ownership of the political process, he said, emphasizing the need to implement the Saint-Sylvestre agreement, and to respect the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the DRC.

MONUSCO should, within its mandate, strengthen consultations with Kinshasa, he added, emphasizing that his delegation supports African countries in seeking African solutions.

China has participated in peacekeeping operations within, and provided humanitarian assistance to the DRC, he noted.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has said that the humanitarian situation “remains worrying” in Uvira territory, South Kivu, one of the 26 provinces of the DRC, where more than 14,000 people have been displaced following an attack by a coalition of the Mai Mai militia on Aug. 18. Many people who were displaced were forced to flee again.

In addition, earlier this month, some 3,900 people were reportedly displaced in northern Shabunda and some 3,200 people in the southeast of the province of Maniema, due to clashes between armed groups and the armed forces.

Since June, the UN and its partners have been assisting more than 600,000 people in need, including internally displaced people and refugees.

According to an agreement reached between President Joseph Kabila and the opposition on Dec. 31, 2016, elections were to be held by the end of 2017, and Kabila was not to run for a third term or initiate amendments to the constitution.

Citing logistical difficulties that prevented the elections from being held on Nov. 5, 2017, CENI published a new electoral calendar for combined presidential, legislative and provincial elections to take place on Dec. 23, 2018.

Following the end of the voter registration period, between July 25 and Aug. 8, Kabila’s party, the Peoples’ Party for Reconciliation and Democracy, announced that its candidate for president will be former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, thus putting an end to speculation as to Kabila’s intentions.



DR Congo Ebola outbreak at key juncture, control measures working: WHO

GENEVA  (Xinhua) -- The outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) is at a key juncture, and while the control measures are working, the outbreak trend must be interpreted with caution, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

The latest WHO figures showed that as of Wednesday, a total of 116 EVD cases, including 86 confirmed and 30 probable, have been reported in five health zones in the DRC’s North Kivu province and one health zone in Ituri province, while the death toll has reached 77, including 47 confirmed and 30 probable. The median age of confirmed and probable cases is 35 years and 56 percent were female.

Fifteen cases have been reported among health workers, of which 14 were confirmed and one has died. The WHO and partners are working with health workers and communities to increase awareness on infection prevention and control measures, as well as vaccinate those at risk of infection.

According to the WHO, currently Ebola control measures are working. Over the past week, contact follow-up rates have substantially improved, most patients recently admitted to Ebola treatment centers received therapeutics within hours of being confirmed, and ring vaccination activities have scaled to reach contacts of most confirmed cases reported in the last three weeks.

The outbreak trend, however, must be interpreted with caution, the WHO warned.

During the past week, 13 additional confirmed and probable cases have been reported, the majority from the city of Beni, while substantial risks remain due to potential undocumented chains of transmission, for instance, four of the 13 new cases were not known contacts.

The WHO underlined a number of potential channels to further propagate the outbreak, such as high-risk behaviors in some communities including unsafe burials and reluctance towards contact tracing and vaccination; poor infection prevention and control practices in some community health centers; and delays in patients reaching Ebola treatment centers when symptoms develop.

In addition to the ongoing response actions, the WHO announced to launch, together with DR Congo Ministry of Health and partners, a 30-day strategic plan to strengthen readiness against EVD in all DR Congo provinces.

The first phase of the plan will prioritize six provinces at highest risk of case importations, including South Kivu, Maniema, Ituri, Tanganika, Haut Uele and Bas Uele, to ensure that these provinces implement essential operational readiness measures, including enhancing surveillance, infection prevention and control, and social mobilization to mitigate.

Given the current conditions, the WHO remains that the public health risk was assessed to be high at the national and regional levels, and low globally, and advises against any restriction of travel and trade to the DR Congo.


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