This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
DRC ‘calm but tense’ as country awaits presidential election result
The post-election environment in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is “calm but tense” as the country waits for the results of last Sunday’s presidential poll, the UN Human Rights office (OHCHR) said on Friday.
Amid reports that journalists and opposition political candidates have been intimidated, and access to the internet has been blocked, OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani warned that efforts to silence dissent could “backfire”.
“What my colleagues have told me and they have observed is that the situation remains calm but tense ahead of the announcement of the results of the elections. There are preliminary reports of some pockets of violence and people being injured…This being a very sensitive, as I said, a very tense period, we are concerned that these efforts to silence dissent could backfire considerably when the results are announced. We are watching carefully and we are calling on all sides to refrain from the use of violence.”
The result of the DRC poll – which featured 21 candidates - is due to be announced this Sunday, although the DRC’s electoral commission announced that this may be pushed back.
The election will decide the successor to President Joseph Kabila, who came to office in 2001 after the previous incumbent, his father Laurent, was assassinated in the aftermath of a civil war involving numerous armed militias.
Renewed inter-communal clashes force 16,000 people from DRC to Republic of Congo
Staying with the DRC region, some 16,000 people have arrived in neighbouring Republic of the Congo – also known as Congo-Brazzaville - after fleeing deadly intercommunal clashes.
Andrej Mahecic from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Friday in Geneva that old hostilities flared up again at the end of last month between two communities in Yumbi, Mai-Ndombe Province, in western DRC.
People are “in dire need of basic assistance”, Mr Mahecic said, adding that those fleeing DRC spoke of attacks that “left homes burned and people killed”.
“This influx in a matter of days is a major event for Congo-Brazzaville. As I said, the area is very remote, it’s not easy to reach, so we are right now, together with other agencies, including the World Food Programme, deploying teams to these areas and they are distributing the relief items including food and shelter materials and other basic items and this has been going on since 29 December.”
According to UNHCR, this is the largest influx of refugees in over a decade, since 130,000 people were forced to seek shelter amid ethnic clashes in DRC’s former Equator Province in 2009.
Khashoggi case lacks international, independent probe call: UN Human Rights
And finally, the criminal trial in Saudi Arabia of individuals suspected of involvement in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi does not meet the requirements of an independent and international probe requested by the UN’s human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, her office said on Friday.
According to reports, 11 defendants went on trial in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on Thursday.
Five suspects face the death penalty if convicted of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, who was a critic of the Kingdom and has not been seen since he visited his country’s consulate in Istanbul, on 2 October.
Here’s Ravina Shamdasani from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):
“We, as you know, have been pressing for justice in the Khashoggi case for months now. We have been calling for an investigation, an independent investigation, with international involvement, and this has not happened yet.”
Ms Shamdasani confirmed that the High Commissioner’s office had spoken “several times” to the Saudi authorities about the case.
The spokesperson also underlined that the UN office was “against the imposition of the death penalty in all circumstances”, and that it had no representation in the Gulf Kingdom to assess the trial.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.