Democratic Republic of Congo adopts new constitution, plans elections

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

President Joseph Kabila of Congo-Kinshasa in 2003

The Democratic Republic of the Congo(DRC) adopted a new constitution on May 13. Elections are being planned for the first time in more than 40 years. The DRC has been torn by five years of civil war. Peace was declared in 2003, but hunger and disease continue to trouble the country.

The U.S. State Department praised recent political developments in the African nation. Spokesman Richard Boucher made a statement that the new constitution "establishes a balance of powers between the branches of government, ensures protection and development of minorities, and provides for a limit of two presidential terms. We note the flexibility shown by all members of the transitional Congolese government in reaching this agreement."

Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht asked for civil calm as the difficult process of preparing for elections goes forward. The election has already been delayed by the government for several months, and further postponements are expected. Congo was once a Belgian colony, and the two governments are working together to prevent the outbreak of more rioting such as happened after the last election delay in January.

Congolese President Joseph Kabila has requested military assistance from the European Union to help restrain and instruct the Congolese army and integrate it better with the government. The EU announced Monday that ten of its member nations plan to participate. This is the first such deal made by the EU.