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DR. Congo. Storm warning for September

The Independent National Electoral Commission’s inability or unwillingness to convene the date of the presidential election this 2016 could spark a new storm of violences  in this month of September.

 On the last 7 July, the UN deputy Secretary General, Jan Eliasson told the Security Council that unless a dialogue takes place between the government and the opposition, tensions in the DRC could generate a violent crisis which might need a response which would be far beyond, the U.N. Mission for the Stabilisation of the Congo (MONUSCO) capacities. Both the Presidential side and the opposition have agreed in principle to such dialogue but neither side has the same definition of it.  The opposition only accepts to discuss modalities of the implementation of the constitutional schedule which foresees that the presidential and legislative elections have to be convened 90 days before the expiration of the current President’s mandate, on the next 19 September, as stipulates Article 73. On the contrary, the Presidential side argues that it will not possible to hold the election on time and would like the dialogue to fix the modalities of a transition, and argues that President Joseph Kabila should stay in power until a successor is elected as stipulates Article 70.

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Both sides are on a collision course. On the last 12 July, the opposition launched an ultimatum, urging the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) to convene on the 19 next September the election for the 27 November. Otherwise, it will urge the people to mobilize in order to defend its constitutional rights, reminding Article 64 of the constitutional which stipulates that any Congolese has the duty to oppose any individual or group who take the power by force or exert power in violation of the constitution.  “If Kabila wants to stay by force, we’ll oppose him with force”, summarizes Tshisekedi’s son and Secretary for external relations of UDPS, Félix.
The opposition’s ultimatum came just after the announcement by CENI’s chairman and President Joseph Kabila’s appointee, Corneille Nangaa on the 4 July in the Bas-Uélé province that the election could not take place in November. CENI argues that the voters’ register is so corrupt that it would take 16 months to meet international standards for a credible and democratic elections. But such estimate is disputed by the opposition and the International Organisation of French Speaking States (OIF).

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The opposition is not in a mood for compromise. On the last 10 June, during a conference held in Genval, near Brussels, more than hundred delegates from the diaspora and from the DR.Congo, gathered around the veteran leader of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDSP), Etienne Tshisekedi, hailed in advance Joseph Kabila’s departure from the President’s office on the next 20 December. They reminded that Article 70 prohibits Joseph Kabila to run for a third mandate. Some opposition leaders were not there. Union for the Congolese Nation leader, Vital Kamerhe, a former National Assembly speaker was not attending. Neither could Jean-Pierre Bemba, the former Vice-President and founder of the Movement of Liberation of Congo, who was sentenced to 18 years prison by the International Criminal Court on the last 21 June for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by his militia in the Central Africa Republic, in 2002. The popular ex-governor of Katanga, Moise Katumbi wasn’t there either, for medical reasons. But all three were represented.
The opposition politicians present at Genval, including three former ministers of the dissident G7 group which severed links with Kabila and including leaders of seven other political platforms, refused categorically Kabila’s version of the dialogue which aims to find a deal to hold him in office as long as possible beyond the constitutional deadlines. They said they were in favour of a dialogue based on UN Security Council resolution 2277 which calls for the respect of the constitution and its deadlines. Participants also rejected the idea of a referendum to amend the constitution in order to allow Kabila to run for another term, as suggested by Henri Mova the secretary general of Kabila’s People Party for Reconstruction and Development (PPRD).
At Genval, the opposition managed to set up an umbrella organisation, a wise-men committee chaired by Tshisekedi to define strategies to implement an orderly implementation of the succession. The UN, the European Union, the OIF and United States were urged to support the facilitator chosen by the African Union, Edem Kodjo to pave the road for credible elections, if possible within the constitutional time frame and at any rate without Joseph Kabila. But all these moves were rejected by the secretary general of the Presidential majority and National Assembly speaker, Aubin Minaku who declared that all resolutions adopted in Genval were part of “a coup attempt”.

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The situation is confused. Beyond its unity against Kabila, the opposition is divided. A number of leaders including Katumbi who is supported by the G7 declared themselves candidates for the presidential election. The list also includes World Bank staff member, Noel Tshiani and former Kabila’s Finance Minister, Freddy Matungulu. On the presidential side, a number of PPRD figures are aware that they cannot rely indefinitely on the only politician who is barred by the constitution from the presidential race. The names of four would-be heirs apparent are being mentioned: the list includes Henri Mova,  Aubin Minaku, Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo and the Minister of Interior, Evariste Boshab.
At the same time, the regime is making life impossible for the more popular opposition candidate, beside the veteran Tshisekedi who follows medical treatment in Belgium, Moise Katumbi. On the 22 June, the former governor was sentenced to three years prison by a Lubumbashi court at the end of a trial dubbed as “political” by former Planning Minister and G7 leader, Olivier Kamitatu. Indeed, one of the consequences is that such condemnation deprives Katumbi from the right to participate to the presidential race. Katumbi who appealed the decision was sentenced as a result of the complaint of a Greek national, who accused the former governor, at the age of 12, to have dispossessed him from a house, 40 years after the facts ! Before that, Katumbi was prosecuted for having allegedly recruited mercenaries. After  one month, only one man was arrested and released. Since the beginning of 2016, Katumbi was attacked several times in suspicious circumstances. Last January, in Lubumbashi, his car was hit by a bus whose driver escaped with the complicity of the police. In May, while he was in court, Katumbi was attacked by a policeman who nailed a syringe in his ribs. One month later, a German lab found, he had been poisoned with arsenic. According to Katumbi, this attempt to poison him was the second. Before that, in 2007, the landing gear of his jet was sabotaged in Kinshasa, he told SouthWorld.

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The political climate is also poisoned by rumours. Since early 2016, tensions have been rising in North Kivu, between the Hutu and other ethnic groups on the other. Several dozen people were killed in fightings occurred in the Walikale area. The Congolese army’s passivity and the involvement of a Congolese general according to a confidential report of the UN in massacres occurred in the Beni area, are seen by many people in Goma as a deliberate strategy to create such a level of violence that force majeure could be declared in order to justify the postponement of the election. Only time will tell whether such fear is justified. In the meantime, people continue to die mysteriously in atrocious circumstances. Seven dead bodies showing of tortures were discovered in the Ndjili river in Kinshasa at the beginning of July.

François Misser

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