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Voter registration date set, university politics banned

KINSHASA, 7 Jun 2005 (IRIN) - Voter registering is due to start in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on 20 June, a spokesman for the country's independent electoral commission announced on Monday.

The government also announced on Monday a ban on political activities at universities.

The main political opposition party, the Union pour la democratie et le progres social (UPDS), is planning to hold demonstrations on 30 June to protest the current transitional government's inability to hold elections and hand over power by that date.

The DRC's transitional government was established in June 2003 following an agreement signed in April 2003 among various Congolese parties. Although the transitional period was due to end on 30 June, the agreement allowed for two six-month extensions.

The National Assembly is expected to officially postpone the elections following a request for the delay by the independent electoral commission in April.

"All delays in the transition are unacceptable," Remy Massamba, the UPDS secretary-general, said.

Massamba called for an immediate end to the current transitional government, which is made up of leaders of the former government and former warring armed groups.

The National Assembly is also still debating the country's electoral laws.

However, voters outside the capital, Kinshasa, would not be able to start registering on 20 June because the necessary logistics were not in place, the commission's spokesman, Dieudonne Mirimo, said.

"Security forces will be on extra alert around 30 June," Theophile Mbemba, the interior minister, said last week.

The minister of advanced education, Jean-Pierre Lola Kisanga, told IRIN on Monday that political activity would henceforth be banned at all universities and colleges.

"Politicians have been using universities to poison the minds of students but they are not going to do it any more," he said. "All offenders will be exposed and punished, possibly with expulsion."

Human rights activists have condemned the government's decision.

"This is a violation of human rights against students, who are the future leaders of the country and must learn to develop politically," Dolly Ibefo, president of the Kinshasa-based NGO Voix des sans voix (Voice of the voiceless), said.

Kisanga said the ban would ensure that universities were apolitical and did not affect individual liberties.

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