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TRAVEL ADVISORY – Presidential Elections Postponed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Key Points:

  • The elections that were due to be held in November 2016 have been delayed until April 2018.
  • President Kabila is constitutionally barred from running for another term.
  • The main opposition bloc has called for a general strike on 19 October 2016.

Situation Summary:
Political: The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) looks set to be plunged into large-scale violence as the governing party, and some smaller parties, agreed plans to postpone the elections scheduled for November 2016 until April 2018. The main opposition bloc has criticised this move as an attempt by President Kabila to maintain his hold on power as he is constitutionally barred from seeking re-election. The government have claimed that the electoral commission were not prepared for the vote and that there are not the necessary finances available. The European Union have promised sanctions if the vote is delayed until 2018. It is feared that President Kabila will seek to use the delay to amend the constitution to allow him to run for another term.


Intrinsic Comment:
The planned delay of the vote comes at a time of increased unrest in the DRC. Diplomatic staff from the United States had already been told the leave the country due to its restiveness. The main opposition bloc called for a general strike in the country on 19 October 2016 in response to this announcement; such large gatherings are notoriously violent and security forces have been known to shoot-to-kill. In September 2016, 49 people were killed (according to UN estimates) in protests against a planned change to the vote. It would also appear that the government may use the delay to crack down on opposition leaders. On 17 October 2016, the deputy secretary-general for the main opposition, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), was arrested at the Kinshasa airport as he was boarding a flight to Brussels. Reports also suggest that clashes in the Katanga region led to 20 deaths on 18 October 2016.

Intrinsic Security Advice:
Risk Ratings: DR Congo: High Political: High
Intrinsic advises that large gatherings are likely to occur across the country. Such events are to be avoided even if they initially seem peaceful as protests often become deadly. Those seeking to travel to the country should consider delaying their visits until the situation in the country becomes clearer. If this is not possible, Intrinsic recommends that travel should only be undertaken under enhanced security measures. This includes the employment of a security team and 24-hour monitoring of events. Those already within the DRC should make evacuation plans in case the country descends into excessive violence.

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