DRC gets new electoral commission chiefs

Kinshasa - President Joseph Kabila has sworn in new chiefs of the electoral commission in the Democratic Republic of Congo a year ahead of planned polls, state television reported on Tuesday.

Corneille Nangaa, Norbert Basengezi and Pierrette Mwenze were respectively made president, vice-president and quaestor - or treasury officer - of the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI), according to a decree.

The appointments follow successive resignations of previous top CENI officials at a time of political upheaval, since opponents of Kabila, in power since 1991, believe he is seeking a means to stand for office again despite a constitutional ban.

CENI members are supposed to be representative of various segments of the population of some 70 million in the vast central African country, which is mainly Christian. Religious leaders choose its president.

Nangaa, a technocrat unfamiliar to the general public, replaces Father Apollinaire Malu-Malu, a cleric whose resignation for health reasons was announced in October after several months of illness.

Malu-Malu is credited - alongside a large UN mission established in the country - with the organisation in 2006 of the first free democratic elections to take place in the former Zaire after independence from Belgium in 1960.

The presidential poll won by Kabila came three years after the official end of the Second Congo War, a devastating conflict that saw the armies of half a dozen other African nations fight over the DR Congo's mineral-rich soil.

Kabila's second victory in elections in 2006 was strongly contested by foreign observers as well as the domestic opposition, who protested at widespread fraud.

Since the constitutional court overturned an electoral timetable put forward by the CENI in September, uncertainty has hung over the date of the next presidential and parliamentary polls, due by November 2016.

Early this month, Kabila called for a "national dialogue" to help bring about "peaceable elections", but much of the opposition rejected his proposal and dismissed it as a stalling tactic.

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