New York - The United Nations Security Council is considering a French-drafted resolution that would task peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo with helping to prepare credible elections.
The draft text, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, would renew the MONUSCO force's mandate for a year and outline its priorities as the DRC heads for historic elections on December 23.
The elections in the vast mineral-rich African country are to pave the way for a transfer of power from President Joseph Kabila, who took over from his father after he was assassinated in 2001.
Kinshasa authorities have set a date for the vote but Kabila has not clearly stated whether he will step aside, raising fears that the country will slide into all-out violence.
The draft resolution "underscores the need to do everything possible to ensure that the elections on 23 December 2018 are organised with the requisite conditions of transparency, credibility and inclusivity and security."
It would task MONUSCO with protecting civilians and with supporting the electoral process, including the registration of voters, the vote and a transfer of power on January 12.
The measure requests that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres make plans for beefing up the peacekeeping mission if needed, "looking at all options" such as sending reinforcements from other missions, according to the text.
Guterres would report to the council 90 days after the adoption of the resolution on the contingency planning.
The council is scheduled to vote on the draft resolution on March 27, and diplomats said they expected it to be adopted.
No troop drawdown
MONUSCO has in the past been tasked with promoting political dialogue, but this draft resolution clearly states that preparations for the elections are a priority in the coming year.
Under pressure from the United States, the council last year reduced the troop ceiling for MONUSCO by some 3 600 military personnel.
That reduced limit of 16 215 military personnel along with nearly 1 450 police remains unchanged, making MONUSCO still the UN's biggest peacekeeping mission.
UN envoy Leila Zerrougui this month warned the council of a risk of violence, saying the government had fallen short of its commitments under a 2016 political deal to free political prisoners and respect the right of demonstration.
At least 47 people including women and children have been killed by security forces who have opened fire on crowds during anti-government demonstrations over the past year, according to a recent UN report by the human rights office.
A group linked to the Catholic Church, the Lay Coordination Committee (CLC) has written to Guterres to ask for "more resources" for the UN mission "for the protection of civilians during the pre-electoral and post-electoral period."
The Catholic Church brokered an accord under which Kabila could remain in power provided new elections were held in 2017 - a deal that fell through after the electoral authorities said they needed more time to compile a voters' register.
Guterres is planning a high-profile visit to the DRC with African Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat in the coming months to highlight global concern ahead of elections.