President Félix Tshisekedi has been in power since January 2019 and is running for a new five-year term. / Photo: AA

The European Union has said it was cancelling its deployment of election observers to the Democratic Republic of Congo ahead of next month's polls due to "technical" reasons.

The announcement on Wednesday comes a day after the EU said the team could not spread out around the vast central African nation because of "security reasons".

The DR Congo, a country of about 100 million people, is in the grip of unrest, with dozens of armed groups active in its east, where UN peacekeepers and East African Community troops are deployed.

Campaigning for the parliamentary and presidential elections on December 20 kicked off 10 days ago.

Equipment unavailable

"Due to technical constraints beyond the control of the EU, we are forced to cancel the electoral observer mission," EU foreign affairs spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said in a statement.

Questioned by AFP, she said that essential telecommunications equipment could not be made available to the team.

The EU encourages authorities and all stakeholders to continue efforts to ensure the Congolese people can fully exercise their political and civil rights during the vote, Massrali said in the statement.

Studying options

She added that the EU was studying other options with Congolese officials, including the possibility of maintaining a team of electoral experts to observe the voting process from the capital, Kinshasa.

The EU's top foreign policy official, Josep Borrell, on December 6 announced the EU's first electoral observer mission to the country in over a decade.

He said "the next months will be crucial for democratic consolidation in the DRC and bilateral DRC-EU cooperation."

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