DR Congo under EU pressure to hold elections on schedule

Joseph Kabila has been in power since 2001 (AFP Photo/Junior Kannah) (AFP/File)

Kinshasa (AFP) - DR Congo's government came under renewed EU pressure Thursday to hold elections on schedule this year as suspicions grow that President Joseph Kabila plans to extend his rule.

A resolution adopted by the European Parliament in Strasbourg urged Democratic Republic of Congo authorities "to comply with the constitution, and to guarantee an environment conducive to transparent, credible and inclusive elections, to be held in November 2016."

Kabila, who has been in power since 2001 and whose current mandate runs out in December this year, is prevented from running again for office under constitutional limits.

A date for the next presidential election has not been announced.

"MEPs express grave concern about the deteriorating security and human rights situation (in DRCongo) where since January 2015 Congolese security and intelligence officials have clamped down on peaceful activists, political leaders and others who oppose attempts to allow (Kabila) to amend the constitution to enable him to stay in power beyond his constitutionally-mandated two-term limit," the statement said.

It added that the government was "responsible for preventing any deepening of the current political crisis or escalation of violence and to respect, protect and promote the civil and political rights of its citizens".

It was the EU's second call on Kinshasa in a week to abide by basic rights.

Earlier Thursday, DR Congo's government urged "positive cooperation" from the international community after being slammed by the EU for stifling dissent and trampling on human rights.

The EU mission in Kinshasa two days expressed "concern" over "acts of harassment and intimidation targeting politicians, members of civil society and journalists."

In Kinshasa, Communications Minister and government spokesman Lambert Mende told a news conference that "our main demand from our foreign partners is positive cooperation."

He said the government hoped that "national institutions will continue to receive more backing from the international community to improve services."

Mende did not make any reference to the EU statement but said that "it is not right to believe that Congolese authorities are less concerned about the basic rights of citizens than their partners."

DR Congo has one of the world's least developed economies, but growth has been constant over recent years, pulled by the country's immense mining resources including gold, copper, cobalt, diamonds, uranium and cassiterite -- the most important source of tin.