In Kinshasa, the Catholic Church tries to prevent the risk of fire

Will leave, will not leave? One week before the official end of the second term of the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on December 20, Joseph Kabila's maintenance in power is almost assured, and the negotiations with the opposition which are due to be completed tomorrow have failed. so far no results, while the presidential election has been postponed indefinitely. The country, which has already experienced two wars between 1996 and 2003, with foreign military interventions supporting rebels, risks being plunged into a deep crisis, and clashes have already claimed lives. Last Thursday, at Kabila's request, the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (Cenco) has established three commissions in order to restart the dialogue between the head of state and the opposition. In question, a corrupt electoral register.

THEpresidential election should have been held on November 27, and the electorate to be convened on September 19. But on May 11 of this year, the Constitutional Court ruled that President Joseph Kabila could stay in power beyond December 20, the day he was due to step down. The current head of state, who succeeded in 2001 to his father, Laurent-Désiré Kabila, assassinated by a bodyguard, but as transitional president, was elected head of the Republic in 2006, then again in 2011. He can no longer carry out a new mandate, and seems to have taken the pretext of the unreliability of electoral registers in order to remain in power.

At the genesis of the conflict: a corrupt file and a Constitutional Court doubting the law

A blocked electoral processThe last revision of the electoral register dates from 2011, it contains 30,5 million registrants. On condition that we remove 1,3 million duplicates that were identified after the audit of the Independent National Electoral Commission (Céni) and the International Organization of the Francophonie. The electoral process is blocked, because the Commission cannot remove the dead persons from the file, and that six to eight million people who have come of age from 2011 are not registered, nor the Congolese living abroad. The power, which wanted to count the population, gave in to the protests of the suspicious opposition, and is now in favor of a partial revision of the file, while the President's opponents want the register to be fully corrected.

With a specious interpretation of the Constitution, the head of state announced that the presidential election was postponed

Yet the Ceni had announced the holding of the presidential election for November 27, provided, in particular, that the file was updated. Three months later, responding to a question from the Presidential Majority, the Constitutional Court declared that, according to paragraph 2 of article 70 of the Constitution, “at the end of his mandate, the President of the Republic remains in function until the effective installation of the new elected President. " This is called twisting the meaning of the words since the article does not speak of an entry into office of a new President to be elected, but of "President elect". With this specious legal interpretation, the head of state announced in early October from Tanzania that the presidential election was postponed indefinitely… An unsurprising decision since the electoral college had not been convened on September 19.

The reason put forward by President Kabila is that we have to wait for the registration of 10 million citizens on the electoral rolls, the risk being that they will show violence if they cannot vote. Moreover, during the summer, he toured the former Kantaga, rebel land, where he asked citizens to register, without however saying if the election would take place, as planned, this year. The opposition does not hear it that way, and protests degenerated into deadly violence on September 19, and police officers were killed. Activists of the movement Bye Bye Kabila were recently arrested by the police, their fault is to demand the confiscation of the property of the Head of State and members of his entourage.

New discussions began last Thursday, under the aegis of the Catholic Church

The October 18, an agreement was signed which provides for the holding of the presidential election in 2018 and the retention in power of the President until the installation of his successor; in return, the Prime Minister would come from the opposition. The caciques of the opposition however refused this compromise. Finally, new discussions began last Thursday, under the aegis of the Catholic Church, and Cenco hopes to find a solution before December 14. The government does not want demonstrations the day before its departure, on the 19th, and hopes that the opposition will accept a transition at its side; the latter wants the election to be held at the end of 2017 at the latest.

Cenco has set up three commissions, the first to prepare the country's leadership after December 19, the second to prepare an electoral calendar, and the last to try to ease the political situation.

Abroad, we are trying to avoid this situation by putting pressure on the President to give up his hand.

President very reserved, speaking poor French, and suspected by the Americans of having sold off mining and oil assets when they were sold to an Israeli billionaire, Joseph Kabila is not appreciated, and the longer he remains in power, the greater the risk that the country will catch fire. Abroad, we are trying to avoid this situation by putting pressure on the President to give up his hand. The European Union decided on December 12 to restrict the freedom of movement of seven officials of the Congolese security services for ordering the disproportionate use of force during the deadly demonstrations of September 19 and 20, as well as freezing their assets in the EU. Russia and China communicated, via their ambassadors, to the President their common request to see him leave on December 20.

The United States, which supports the dialogue between the President and the opposition and say they believe in a broad consensus by December 19, have asked their nationals to leave the country at the beginning of the month. Belgium advises against traveling to the country and invites its nationals who are there not to expose themselves too much by traveling. The Governor of the former province of Katanga, Moïse Katumbi, threatened to occupy the street if the negotiations led by the episcopate failed.

Hans-Søren Dag

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