Robert HARNEIS –TDO- (FRANCE) - The Democratic Republic of the Congo has expelled the European Union Ambassador Bart Ouvry in response to the recent renewal of EU sanctions against Congolese officials including the ruling coalition’s candidate in a presidential election.

The decision, announced by the Foreign Ministry after a meeting with foreign ambassadors in Kinshasa, comes two years after sanctions were first imposed, and just three days before the much delayed election is due to take place.

The vote comes after two years of turmoil, with riots and many deaths.

Joseph Kabila, who aged just 47 has been President for nearly 18 years is not anxious to leave power but is disbarred by a two term limit.

If all goes well, a new President will be sworn in on January 18, the first time that the DRC will have achieved a peaceful transition of power since gaining independence in 1960. The election should have been held in 2016 when Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001, reached a two-term limit. But he remained in office, invoking a caretaker clause under the constitution.

On Wednesday, the presidents of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and the neighboring Republic of Congo called for ‘peaceful, free, democratic and transparent’ elections and expressed deep concern at the violence.

In 1996-1997 and 1998-2003, the DRC was the theatre of two major conflicts — the second of which was called "the Great War of Africa" for the millions of dead and homeless that it left. Terrorist activity continues in Beni province.

The presidential elections — unfolding alongside legislative and municipal ballots — have a field of 21 candidates, with three men in the lead.

They are Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a hardline former interior minister; Felix Tshisekedi, head of the veteran UDPS opposition; and Martin Fayulu, a little-known legislator and former oil executive.

The interference in the election by the EU managed by the un-elected European Commission is resented by supporters of the government party and their candidate Shadary. Two-thirds of DR Congo's estimated 80 million population are under the age of 25. Their vote will be crucial.

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