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Officials trade blame for delaying elections

KINSHASA, 12 Jan 2005 (IRIN) - Since an announcement on Friday that the electoral commission of the Democratic Republic of Congo may not be able to hold elections by 30 June as scheduled, various political groups and officials involved in the transition have been accusing each other of causing the delay.

"It's not the electoral commission that should be held accountable," said Apollinaire Malu Malu, who heads the electoral body.

Malu Malu's announcement on Friday that the polls might have to be postponed sparked violent protests that paralyzed areas of the capital. Police responded with gun fire and four people are confirmed dead.

A December 2002 peace agreement called for elections to be held by June but it also allowed for the possibility of the process to be delayed for up to two-six month periods. The administration of President Joseph Kabila and all rebel groups signed the agreement, and then formed a joint transitional government.

Malu Malu said the commission was doing all it could to keep the electoral processes on track, such as pushing the government to take various prerequisite steps. These include creating a constitution, a law concerning a referendum on the constitution and another on the holding of the elections.

There are also larger obstacles to holding the elections. The government is yet to establish its authority over the entire country, particularly in the east where militias and government units are fighting each other. The government in Kinshasa has also not appointed people to head key institutions around the country.

Leaders in the government, former rebel groups and other opposition parties all agree that these problems need to be overcome for elections to take place, but disagree on who is responsible.

One of the main former rebel groups, le Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), blames the Kabila government and its allies for blocking the unification of the army. Kabila's supporters blame the RCD, some of whose supporters within the military fought against troops sent from Kinshasa in December.

"We know the soldiers who opposed the deployment of regular troops are from the RCD," said Vital Kamerhe, secretary-general of the Parti du peuple pour la reconstruction et la democratie, which is close to Kabila.

On Monday, members of one of the other main former rebel groups, le Mouvement pour la Liberation du Congo, threatened to suspend its participation in the transitional government at the end of January unless progress was made.

Parliamentarian and government supporter Lambert Mende Omalanga said rebel groups "were amongst the signatories of the peace accord and they had insisted that the agreement allowed for the possibility of an extension of the transitional process if more inter-Congolese dialogue was needed".

Political leaders who did not join the transitional government have been saying that those who did all had an interest in prolonging the transitional period.

"It is out of the question to grant a delay to those who want to continue to sit in power," said Jean-Baptiste Bonanza, national secretary of l'Union pour la democratie et le progres social (UDPS) - led by veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi - which did not join the transition government.

"They are deliberately blocking the process," Bonanza added.

Kabila's supporters condemned the UDPS for what they said was the manipulation of Malu Malu's announcement that elections could be delayed. The UDPP denies the accusation.

The slowness of the transitional process has also been condemned by the international community including CIAT, the Comite international d'accompagnement de la transition, an international committee monitoring the transition. It has been condemned in particular by Belgium, the former colonial power, which has contributed more than one-third of the US $280 millions budget for the election.

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