‘Complications’ hold up deal to end DR Congo crisis
The signing of a deal aimed at ending DR Congo’s political crisis was being held up on Friday due to “complications”, a source close to the negotiations said, dampening hopes of a breakthrough.
The unstable, mineral-rich nation has been thrust into political limbo by President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down after his second and final term, which officially ended on December 20.
At least 40 people have been killed during anti-Kabila protests around the Democratic Republic of Congo since Monday, the UN human rights office said in Geneva Friday.
“Some 107 people have been injured or ill-treated and there have been at least 460 arrests,” it added.
The influential Catholic Church has been brokering talks between the government and opposition in a bid to exit the crisis, and negotiators wrapped up talks on Thursday night in an optimistic mood, leaving legal experts to finalise the text of the deal based on a working document.
“It’s certain — we will finish tomorrow,” CENCO vice-president Fridolin Ambongo had said, while an opposition source told AFP: “We’ve got everything we could have wanted.”
Lumanu Mulenda, a negotiator on the government side, had said: “The president has made enough concessions, the deal will be signed tomorrow.”
But on Friday morning a source in the Congo National Episcopal Conference (CENCO), which is presiding over the negotiations, told AFP tersely: “There have been complications.”
The working document for the deal, seen by AFP, envisages a “political transition” with fresh presidential elections to be held at the end of 2017.
The vote was supposed to be organised this year, and the government had previously said it was impossible for it to be held before April 2018.
The deal also guarantees that Kabila will not seek a third mandate — as is banned under the constitution — and lays the groundwork for a “national transition council” charged with carrying out the agreement.
In return, the opposition headed by 84-year-old Etienne Tshisekedi, accepts that Kabila would stay in power until he hands over to an elected successor, having previously demanded an immediate departure from public life.
– Risk further conflict –
Kabila, 45, has been in power since his father Laurent was assassinated in 2001.
The younger Kabila was confirmed as head of state of the vast nation of 70 million people in DR Congo’s first free post-independence elections in 2006, and re-elected in 2011 in a vote marred by allegations of massive fraud.
The UN said those killed In clashes with security forces were “mainly” people protesting Kabila’s refusal to step down.
UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement the high casualty figures suggested DR Congo’s security forces had shown “a serious disregard” for the need for restraint.
“Violent repression of dissenting voices and a heavy-handed and irresponsible response to demonstrations risk provoking violence in return by demonstrators and possibly even tipping the constitutional crisis over the president’s future into further conflict across the country,” the rights chief said
Despite being constitutionally banned from seeking a third term, a controversial order by the constitutional court in May said Kabila could stay on until a successor was chosen.
DR Congo has never witnessed a democratic transfer of power following polls since independence from Belgium in 1960.
Two decades ago, the country collapsed into the deadliest conflict in modern African history. Its two wars in the late 1990s and early 2000s dragged in at least six African armies and left more than three million dead.