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UN urges DR Congo to stop demonstrations

The UN Security Council on Monday urged the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to lift a blanket ban on demonstrations ahead of key elections meant to end President Joseph Kabila’s rule.

The council met behind closed doors at France’s request to hear a report by the UN envoy Leila Zerrougui on preparations for the December 23 elections that could pave the way for the first peaceful transfer of power in the resource-rich country.

Council members called on Kinshasa authorities to put “an end to restrictions of the political space, and encouraged them to lift the blanket ban on demonstrations,” Polish Ambassador Joanna Wronecka, who holds the council presidency this month, told reporters after the meeting.

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The ban was imposed in September 2016 when anti-Kabila protests turned violent.

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres earlier this month urged the government to end the ban, saying the move would “greatly contribute to the opening of political space.”

The government has authorized some opposition protests in recent weeks but security forces cracked down on demonstrators in late March and early April in the second city of Lubumbashi and in other areas of the country.

In power since 2001, Kabila has not clearly stated whether he will step aside despite appeals from the United States, France and Britain for him to clearly state that he will not seek re-election.

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The Security Council is stepping up its focus on the Democratic Republic of Congo as it heads toward the December polls, with concerns over violence.

The DRC hosts the UN’s biggest peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO, with some 17 500 troops and police.

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