United Nations (United States) (AFP) - UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday voiced hoped that a political deal reached in the Democratic Republic of Congo to delay an election until 2018 will help improve human rights and lead to a credible vote.
The main opposition has rejected the deal signed Tuesday that would keep President Laurent Kabila in power until the election in April 2018.
Kabila was due to step down at the end of 2016 to make way for the vote this year.
Ban "takes note" of the accord and "hopes that the implementation of the agreement will contribute to a more conducive climate for the respect of fundamental rights and freedoms essential to political debate and credible elections," the UN statement said.
The UN chief urged the government to continue confidence-building measures with the opposition, particularly the release of political prisoners and respect for the right to peaceful assembly.
Anti-Kabila demonstrations in Kinshasa last month turned violent, killing some 49 people.
Ban called on "political groups who were not part of the national dialogue to seek to resolve their differences peacefully."
He stressed the "crucial importance of peaceful and credible elections for the stabilization and consolidation of constitutional democracy in the DRC."
One of Africa's biggest and most resource-rich countries, the DR Congo has been ruled by Kabila since 2001, when his father Laurent was assassinated.
He was elected in 2006 to his first five-year term under a constitution that sets a two-term limit for presidents.
An opposition call for a protest strike on Wednesday was heeded in Kinshasa, where most shops were closed, but the appeal was ignored in the second city of Lubumbashi and Bukavu.
The United Nations is moving hundreds of peacekeepers from the east of the country to Kinshasa to help deal with a possible outbreak of violence, UN officials said.