On Thursday, February 4, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing deep concern over delayed Presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo). The letter describes Congolese President Joseph Kabila as having "delayed taking the steps necessary to schedule and hold a presidential election," despite reaching his constitutional term limit this year, and goes on to recognize that "continued delay and public perceptions that President Kabila is clinging to power, have created a very real risk of violent upheaval or even renewed warfare." The letter additionally expresses concern over Kabila's move to "suppress free expression," noting that the "turmoil in neighboring Burundi can serve as a warning of what could happen in Congo."
Following a multiplicity of strong messages sent from the U.S. to Congo over the past year, Senator Markey now recommends that Secretary Kerry communicates the following three points to President Kabila:
- He should immediately, clearly, and publicly state that he will not remain in power once his term ends this year.
- Provided there is verified, on-the-ground progress towards a free and fair national election this year, including an end to the current efforts to close political space and crack down on peaceful dissent, the U.S. and international partners will help fund the electoral process, and encourage increased private investment.
- If he fails to meet clear benchmarks required to hold a free and fair national election this year then the U.S. and other partners will implement sanctions. Such sanctions should include targeted visa denials and asset freezes under the Executive Order on the DRC of July 8, 2014, review and reduction of bilateral and multilateral security and economic aid going through the Government, and discouragement of private investment.