Congo Watch: Congo rebel group says it will go to polls

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Congo rebel group says it will go to polls

Congo's biggest former rebel group said on Friday it would end its boycott of the huge country's peace process and contest elections in June, reports IOL Kinshasa March 25 2006:

Azarias Ruberwa's RCD-Goma, backed by neighbouring Rwanda during Congo's devastating 1998-2003 war, said he would stand for president on June 18 in the country's first free national parliamentary and presidential polls in more than four decades.

"I have already been designated as presidential candidate by the party," Ruberwa told reporters in the capital Kinshasa, saying he would lodge his nomination papers in the next few days.

The announcement follows weeks of wrangling within the transitional government over the allocation of parliamentary seats in the territory formerly controlled by RCD-Goma, which still enjoys widespread support and influence in the area.

RCD-Goma had suspended its participation in all transitional institutions and cast doubt on whether it would take part in the June elections.

Ruberwa met United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan who visited Congo this week to encourage preparations for the elections and ensure all parties take part in the polls.

A statement from RCD-Goma acknowledged Annan's mediation role but said the dispute over constituencies had not yet been resolved and it would not rule out further protest action.

An RCD-Goma boycott could seriously jeopardise the credibility and organisation of elections in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where militia still operate and aid workers say 1,000 people are being killed every day, mainly through hunger and disease.

An estimated 4 million people have died as a result of the conflict since 1998.

The United Nations has its biggest peacekeeping operation in Congo, and the European Union plans to send troops to help safeguard the elections.

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