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Booker, Coons Statement on Democratic Republic of Congo Elections

January 3, 2019
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Chris Coons (D-DE), members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement:

“Despite crackdowns by security forces on pro-democracy activists and opposition groups leading up to the election, in a courageous and inspiring demonstration of will, the Congolese people turned out to vote on December 30 to cast their ballots after a two-year delay of its elections. We are deeply concerned about the credibility and integrity of the electoral process following the national vote, meant to usher in Congo’s first democratic transfer of power in 58 years of independence. As votes continue to be counted, credible reporting indicates that the election was fraught with major irregularities including reports of interference by local militias, malfunctioning voting machines, and missing voter lists.

“We strongly condemn the shutdown of the internet and SMS services in the wake of the election.  We also condemn the Congolese Government’s withdrawal of accreditation for Radio France International (RFI) correspondent Florence Morice, as well as the decision to cut RFI’s local FM broadcasts, cutting off a key independent source of news for millions of Congolese people.  We urge the Congolese Government to respect freedom of the press and restore these vital services that allow its citizens to receive and share information. We also call on the government to remove restrictions on local election observers and allow them to access compilation and tabulation centers. Unless dramatic steps are taken to restore access to information, increase transparency, and build confidence in the electoral process, the announcement of results may portend greater instability and international isolation for the Democratic Republic of Congo, rather than a hoped-for and too long deferred peaceful transition.  Furthermore, hundreds of people have been injured and killed in election-related violence. We urge President Kabila’s government to take every step possible to ensure a peaceful and democratic transfer of power to preclude security breakdowns that threaten the lives of innocent civilians.”

Booker is the top-ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy.

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