DRC ‘Dialogue’ Aims to Set Elections for April 2018
By William Clowes*
KINSHASA, DRC —
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, participants in an African Union-mediated dialogue are expected to unveil a controversial deal to hold elections in April 2018. The country’s main opposition coalition has boycotted the talks and called for a general strike Wednesday.
More than six weeks after it started, the “national dialogue” between supporters of President Joseph Kabila and a faction of the Congolese opposition is set to conclude.
An accord finalized during the weekend is to be adopted and the forum is to be closed on Tuesday.
But a larger opposition coalition, known as the Rassemblement, has rejected the dialogue from the outset and is calling for a second, more inclusive forum. They say the opposition delegation at the talks, led by onetime presidential ally Vital Kamerhe, did not truly represent their interests.
Freddy Matungulu, a senior politician from the Rassemblement, told VOA that the accord simply represents the propositions of the presidential majority, the name given to Kabila’s political alliance. He said Kamerhe’s delegation is an integral part of the presidential majority and Kamerhe has rediscovered his political family.
Now that the presidential majority has finished its reflections, Matungulu claims, the inclusive dialogue should start as quickly as possible, and the Rassemblement is ready to make concrete proposals.
But for the dialogue’s participants the agreement is a road map to a transitional government and credible elections.
Kabila buying time, main opposition claims
According to a statement from Kamerhe, the accord will allow Kabila to remain in office until the next presidential election, to be held in April 2018. In the meantime, a government of national unity will be formed, and Kamerhe is a strong favorite to be named prime minister.
The Rassemblement says Kabila should step down December 19 when his second and, according to the constitution, final term ends. The president’s opponents argue he has delayed elections to gain extra time in office.
The proposed date of April 2018 for the next elections is also controversial. On October 1, Corneille Nangaa, the president of the electoral commission, said he would need until at least November 2018 to organize the polls, and repeated the statement two weeks later in Washington.
Matungulu says the electoral commission under Nangaa is not serious because he is in connivance with the presidential majority. He accuses Nangaa of creating confusion by saying one thing in Washington and another in Kinshasa, and of spreading, what he calls, a regime of lies.
The Rassemblement has called a general strike for October 19 to apply further pressure on Kabila. The strike date falls exactly one month after a demonstration in Kinshasa during which more than 50 people died, according to the United Nations.
On Monday, the European Union, which has been supporting the dialogue, said elections should be organized in the shortest possible time-frame during 2017. The statement said that the European Union “will use all the means at its disposal,” including targeted sanctions against those responsible for serious human rights violations, and who “try to obstruct a consensual and peaceful solution to the crisis.”