By Global Information Network
NEW YORK | KINSHASA (IDN) – Difficult negotiations have succeeded in bridging the differences between President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and opposition parties who wanted the President to abide by the constitution and step down, having served the two terms he is legally allowed.
President Kabila had sought to stay until 2018 but will now step down by the end of next year. The deal was concluded on New Year’s Eve in the capital Kinshasa, according to negotiators, ending a lengthy stalemate in the country.
"We have reached agreement on all points," said Marcel Utembi, the bishop who chairs the Episcopal Conference overseeing the talks. Alexis Thambwe Mwamba, DRC's justice minister, confirmed, saying: "Everything is settled."
“We got the main thing: we have the commitment of President Kabila not to touch the Constitution, neither revising it nor going to a referendum,” said Felix Tshisekedi of the opposition.
Under the terms of the agreement, fresh presidential elections will be held at the end of 2017. Kabila can stay in power until he hands over to an elected successor. The opposition had previously demanded Kabila's immediate departure from public life.
Until the deal was announced, anger was rising around the country. More than 40 people are thought to have died and hundreds were arrested during two days of violence.
Jackson Mukunda, an activist for change in Congo, tweeted: “If Kabila stays past the constitutional deadline of December 19, other deadlines mean nothing.” Afterwards, he wrote: “Let's see what the next few days bring… the reversal of Kabila has spiced the sauce. . .”
Outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the signing on December 31 in Kinshasa, by the opposition and the Majorité présidentielle, of a political agreement on the holding of elections in DRC and transitional arrangements leading up to the polls.
“The Secretary-General commends all actors involved in this effort, including the leaders of the opposition and of the Majorité présidentielle, and the Conférence épiscopale nationale du Congo (CENCO) for leading the mediation,” said a statement issued by Ban's spokesperson. “He calls on them to abide by the agreement just signed. He underscores the commitment of the United Nations to support its implementation, in line with resolution 2277 (2016).”
According to the statement, this long-awaited development builds on an initial agreement signed on October 18 between part of the opposition and the Majorité présidentielle, and represents a significant step towards a peacefully managed transition consistent with the democratic principles enshrined in the country's Constitution.
Noting that all political actors must work to ensure an environment conducive to free, fair, and credible elections, including by refraining from violence, the Secretary-General encouraged the Government to redouble its efforts to uphold fundamental rights and freedoms, which are essential to a credible electoral process, the statement said. [IDN-InDepthNews – 03 January 2017]
Related report: DR Congo President Ignores UN and Citizen Protests
Photo: Input operators in DR Congo receive electoral kits from the office of the Independent Electoral Commission. The material will be deployed to the different electoral centres in Goma. Photo: MONUSCO/Alain Wandimoyi
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