WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following statement on the importance of holding elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) this year:

“Over the past 18 months, I’ve been concerned by a steadily escalating crackdown on those opposed to President Kabila’s attempt to remain in power beyond his term limits.  With his mandate expiring in just over seven months, President Kabila has used administrative and technical means in an effort to make elections this year impossible.  With no indication from President Kabila that he plans to honor the Constitution and the will of the Congolese people by organizing timely elections and stepping down at the end of his term, the DRC is rapidly approaching a political crisis. 

“President Kabila has presided over relative stability and impressive economic growth, but his current course puts that legacy at risk.  Flouting the DRC’s constitution threatens his country’s democratic trajectory.  The state-sponsored crackdown of his opponents undermines a vibrant civil society.  In sum, the DRC is facing potentially grave instability, which could, in turn, engulf the nine Central African countries it borders.

“The failure of democratic transition in the Congo would be catastrophic for the region, and I hope that it won’t be necessary to consider sanctions in order to prevent a man-made crisis.  Instead, I ask that President Kabila announce his intention to step down at the end of the year, schedule elections, and allow the DRC to continue building upon the progress it had been making toward democracy.  I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress and with the Administration to support President Kabila and the Congolese people in organizing free, fair, timely, and credible elections.”