As uncertainty around whether presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will go ahead in November 2016, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has told IBTimes UK that it is still "technically possible" for the vote to be held on time. The incumbent, Joseph Kabila has been accused of seeking to prolong his rule into a third term, which is barred under the constitution and is at present a prevalent theme in a number of African countries.
In 2015, the Congolese government said that elections could be delayed by up to four years, saying the country was not prepared to head to the polls, but this was dismissed by Kabila's critics as a ploy to stay in power. The updating of electoral rolls and changing of provincial borders in the DRC is overdue and a "national dialogue" called for by the president in November last year is yet to happen. The national dialogue should have concluded in December.
IBTimes UK attempted to contact the Congolese embassy in London for comment, but did not receive a reply at the time of publication.
"We judge at this point in time, that it's still technically possible to have presidential elections in November 2016 if the political momentum is there, it's still technically possible," said Danae Dholakia, the UK's Special Envoy to Africa's Great Lakes Region.
She acknowledged that holding elections in a country two-thirds the size of western Europe poses significant challenges and added that Kinshasa had displayed "a signal that the government does want elections to go ahead on time, but at the same time there's a signal that it's all terribly complicated, there are many hurdles to get through and there's a sense of a lack of confidence that the elections can happen on time".
Britain can help with DRC elections
The UK spends £1m ($1.4m) a day, or $500m (£348.6m) a year in the DRC "in order to support the development of the country, in order to support democracy and the rule of law", said Dholakia, describing the depth of the UK-DRC relationship.
In order to continue ensuring an upward trajectory in a country frequently described as a geological miracle, Dholakia said: "We are absolutely clear that part of that democratic transition – part of ensuring that this is a country that thrives, this is a country that really comes out of poverty, this is a country where you see inclusive growth – is ensuring that elections happen according to the constitution and on time."
She added: "We're very very clear in speaking to interlocutors in DRC that that is what we want and that is what we're ready and able to help to achieve." Lambert Mende, a spokesman for the Congolese government, has consistently maintained that presidential elections will go ahead.
This video is the first of a two-part interview with the UK's Special Envoy to Africa's Great Lakes Region.