Congo rejects foreign aid to fund elections

Congo rejects foreign aid to fund elections

Democratic Republic of Congo said on Monday it would refuse international financing for a long-delayed presidential election and fund the poll itself, saying donors’ conditions amounted to “foreign interference.”

The U.S. and European countries have expressed concern about the electoral commission’s plans to use 100,000 new electronic voting machines, saying the system is untested and could allow fraud.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, warned Congolese authorities in February to use paper ballots or lose American support for the polls.

Only a fraction of expected international contributions have been disbursed as donors await clarification from authorities about how the vote will be conducted, including whether the commission will follow through on the plans to use the machines.

Government spokesman, Lambert Mende, said on Monday that the donors’ conditions amounted to meddling in Congo’s sovereign affairs and urged them to direct their contributions to other sectors such as healthcare and education.

“No country in the world accepts foreign interference in a process that is an exercise of sovereignty,” Mende said.

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The presidential election – now scheduled for December 23 – has been repeatedly delayed since Joseph Kabila refused to step down at the end of his mandate in 2016, with the government citing financial constraints as a main reason.

Uncertainty about Kabila’s future, including whether he plans to change the constitution to remove term limits that bar him from standing for a third elected term, has sparked violent street demonstrations in which dozens of people have died.

The UN has asked international donors to contribute 123 million dollars to support presidential, legislative and local elections over the next two years, whose total cost is expected to run to more than one billion dollars.

Mende said the government’s decision to reject such aid was prompted in part by an upturn in government revenues from its mining sector, which has left more money to finance the polls.

Congo is the world’s biggest source of cobalt and Africa’s top copper producer.

Mining sector revenue rose nearly 36 per cent in 2017 and oil and gas sector revenue doubled.

Election Commission President, Corneille Nangaa, said on Monday that he was aware of the government’s decision but had no further comment. (Reuters/NAN)

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