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United Nations calls on all parties to assist in holding
of “free and fair” balloting in 10 days in DRC

UNITED NATIONS (Xinhua) -- Following a fire that destroyed Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) election material, the United Nations on Thursday appealed to all parties “to assist in the holding of free and fair” balloting in 10 days.

“We’ve been very clear, including through the head of the UN mission (MONUSCO) there, Leila Zerrougui, we are concerned about any actions by various parties that could impede the holding of elections on the ground and we are encouraging all parties to assist in the holding of free and fair elections,” Farhan Haq, deputy UN spokesman said.

“Obviously any sort of incidents like this are a cause for concern in that respect,” he told reporters at a regular briefing.

There were reports earlier this week of violent clashes between factions in the capital city, Kinshasa.

“The UN Mission in the DRC, MONUSCO, reported that earlier (Thursday) a large fire engulfed the independent national electoral commission warehouse in Kinshasa,” Haq said. “Preliminary reports indicate that polling station kits from Kinshasa and a large number of voting machines and other electoral material were destroyed in the fire.”

“A MONUSCO fire-fighting team was rapidly deployed to the scene and helped to extinguish the fire,” he said. “So far, details surrounding the cause of the fire are unknown.”

Balloting in the war-torn and resource-rich DRC is slated for Dec. 23 to determine a successor to President Joseph Kabila who has been in office since 2001 when he replaced his assassinated father Laurent Kabila. Joseph Kabila is not running for re-election, having stayed beyond his term limit, following cancellation of the 2016 elections.

Earlier, Haq said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ special representative, Zerrougui, has expressed her “serious concern” over repeated incidents hampering the proper conduct of the electoral campaign in the country.

“She spoke out against the obstacles some opposition candidates have faced as they tried to hold public meetings in some cities,” Haq said. “Deploring the loss of life, Zerrougui urged Congolese authorities to take all necessary measures to prevent further such incidents.”

“She also voiced her concern about the interference of some armed groups in the electoral campaign and stressed the need to respect the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful demonstration,” the spokesman said.

Last month seven UN peacekeepers from MONUSCO, six from Malawi and another from Tanzania, were killed in the DRC while on an operation against one of the warring factions.



Election-related uncertainty tends to hurt African economies: report

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- Political instability tends to peak around election time for some African nations, which affects economic growth, according to a report released on Wednesday.

“This scenario tends to dampen the GDP growth of some countries, since economic growth shares a complex relationship with both elections and accompanying political instability,” said the report emailed to Xinhua.

The report, commissioned by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and produced by partner and forecaster Oxford Economics, provides a snapshot of the region’s economic performance.

Most African countries have a positive economic outlook, apart from those with upcoming elections, the report said.

According to the report, East Africa continues to report the highest GDP growth on the continent even though the region’s economic growth is expected to ease slightly, from 6.8 percent in 2017 to 6.3 percent this year. Ethiopia reported the highest forecast at 7.8 percent, while the lowest forecast for the region was at 3.8 percent by war-torn South Sudan.

Lower growth ranking for some countries in the region demonstrates how large an effect political instability can have on economic prospects, the report said.

For example, Kenya’s growth rebounded to 5.4 percent this year after it dropped to 4.9 percent in 2017. The drop was attributed to political uncertainty during last year’s elections.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where elections will be held in December, political tensions are set to rise and remain the main obstacle to the GDP growth forecast of 4.1 percent this year.

The elections narrative is also seen in Southern Africa, being the slowest region with GDP forecast set to expand only by 1.2 percent.

Election rhetoric regarding land and property rights in South Africa ahead of polls in 2019 has frightened investors, the report said.

The country is expected to post GDP growth of just 0.7 percent, according to the report.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwean government is suffering from post-election credibility difficulties, with international lenders and investors unconvinced that the scenario has improved in Harare—after violence and fraud allegations marred July’s election.

Egypt, which held elections in March to overwhelmingly return President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to power, is expected to grow by 5.3 percent this year.

The certainty of Sisi’s grip on power appears to be helping the country’s economic rebound, the report said.  



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