Democratic Republic of Congo President Delays Elections to Give Country Time to Prepare

Joseph Kabila
DRC President Joseph Kabila attends a ceremony in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, February 24, 2013. Kabila has delayed elections saying he hopes younger voters will have more time to register. Tiksa Negeri/Reuters

Democratic Republic of Congo authorities have delayed elections to make sure the country is better prepared for them, President Joseph Kabila said Tuesday, answering accusations that the government is dragging its feet to help him to cling onto power.

Congo's electoral commission said Saturday it expected polls to be delayed until December 2018.

"We have decided to delay the elections to avoid locking out a huge number of people—most of them young voters," Kabila told journalists in Tanzania's commercial capital Dar Es Salaam.

"As many as 10 million unregistered voters could miss out on the chance to vote if we proceed with the elections."

Congo has not had a peaceful transition of power since independence from Belgium in 1960. Protests over Kabila's perceived attempts to extend his 15 years in power have led to clashes with security forces several times in the past year.

Scores of people have been killed in the violence.

Supporters of Kabila, who was in Tanzania to discuss oil exploration in Lake Tanganyika on the two country's borders, deny he is behind the delays, which they say are due to logistical and budgetary constraints.

But diplomats and observers fear increasing anger among Kabila's opponents and a growing political crisis could trigger a repeat of civil wars that killed millions of people between 1996 and 2003. Kabila brushed off such concerns.

"There is no political crisis in Congo... what is happening at the moment is just some political tension ahead of elections, which is a normal thing in many parts of Africa," he said.