April 8, 2016 / 4:11 PM / 2 years ago

Calls for Congo vote in 2016 sow seeds of violence: minister

KINSHASA (Reuters) - The Democratic Republic of Congo’s foreign minister said on Friday the U.N. Security Council’s call for the country to hold a presidential election this year would “sow the seeds of future violence”.

A council resolution last week urged the government to take the necessary steps to hold the election in November, as required by the constitution. If successful, it would mark the country’s first peaceful transition of power.

The Congolese government has suggested that logistical and budgetary constraints could force it to postpone the poll.

Opposition leaders say President Joseph Kabila, who is required by the constitution to step down after the election following more than 15 years in office, is deliberately delaying the vote to cling to power.

But Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda told reporters in the capital Kinshasa on Friday the insistence on meeting the constitutional timeline could lead to election-related violence.

“Continuing to call for that six or seven months before (the deadline) when you know objectively that it is becoming difficult to do it in this time period - I think that borders on irresponsibility,” said Tshibanda.

“There is no better way to sow the seeds of violence than to proceed in this way,” he added.

“Do they want to contribute to pointlessly raising tensions in (Congo) so that things explode tomorrow, or do they want to create the conditions for acceptable elections?”

Kabila won disputed elections in 2006 and 2011 that were both marred by violence. The government says that voter rolls must be updated before the next vote to avoid disputes and ensure millions of eligible voters are not disenfranchised.

The electoral commission estimates that revising the registry will take 13 to 16 months but the opposition and some foreign countries, including the United States, say it can be done in as few as six.

Dozens died in violent protests in January 2015 against a revision of the electoral code that critics said was a pretext to delay elections.

Kabila has refused to comment publicly on whether he intends to run again and instead called for a national dialogue.

On Wednesday, the African Union formally named former Togolese prime minister Edem Kodjo to facilitate the dialogue. Most major opposition parties refuse to participate, calling it a ploy to extend Kabila’s rule.

Reporting by Aaron Ross; editing by Andrew Roche

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