Democratic Republic of Congo officials are denying a report that security concerns led them to cancel the annual military parade.
Congo celebrated 57 years of independence Friday, but the country is grappling with militia violence in the central Kasai region, a Kinshasa prison break that freed 4,000 inmates last month and political tension over the delay in the presidential election.
President Joseph Kabila’s deputy chief of staff said there would be no parade Friday because of “security reasons,” according to the report from the Reuters news agency.
Government spokesman Lambert Mende and Congo’s deputy interior and security minister, Basile Olongo, denied that report in separate interviews with VOA.
Olongo, talking to VOA’s French to Africa Service, noted the parade has been cancelled before and implied that dominance by foreign powers played a role in this year’s decision. “When you are no longer considered a sovereign country, it is high time to stop and think,” he said, without elaborating.
Mende, speaking to VOA English to Africa, denied allegations from opposition parties that Kabila is procrastinating on holding the election. The president’s second term expired in December 2016, but he has remained in office. The government says the delay is due to slow voter registration and a lack of funding.
Mende said the electoral commission has now registered 30 million of 42 million prospective voters.
A December 2016 political deal between Kabila and opponents calls for elections to be held by the end of this year.
VOA’s James Butty and Eddie Isango contributed to this report.