UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Outgoing Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila pledged at the United Nations on Tuesday that "peaceful, credible" elections would be held in his country as planned at the end of the year.
Kabila has ruled since his father's assassination in 2001. He agreed last month not to defy term limits by running for re-election, opening the door to the Central African nation's first democratic transfer of power.
His announcement calmed tensions that have seen dozens of anti-Kabila demonstrators killed by security forces since he refused to step down when his constitutional mandate expired in December 2016.
"Despite the enormous challenges still lying cross our path in many areas, just like last year, I now reaffirm the irreversible nature of our decision to hold the elections as planned at the end of this year," he told the annual U.N. gathering of world leaders.
"The political situation in my country is becoming increasingly predictable and transparent," he said. "Everything will be done in order to ensure that these elections are peaceful and credible."
Kabila is backing Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary in the long-delayed Dec. 23 poll. His biggest challengers are likely to be Felix Tshisekedi, the president of Congo's largest opposition party, and Vital Kamerhe, who placed third in the last election in 2011.
Congo is Africa's top producer of copper and the world's leading miner of cobalt, which is prized for its use in batteries for electric cars and electronics.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Jonathan Oatis)