Congo Opposition Group Delays Resumption of Election Talks

  • Postponement follows violence in capital that killed dozens
  • Election schedule, interim government were to be discussed

The opposition delegation participating in election talks in the Democratic Republic of Congo temporarily suspended its involvement after violent protests in the capital, Kinshasa, left at least 34 people dead.

The opposition group decided “to delay the continuation of the work of the national inclusive political dialogue” to provide time to mourn the victims of the unrest, it said in a statement signed by leader Vital Kamerhe and published by his spokeswoman, Lydie Omanga, on Twitter.

The group will use the suspension to hold informal talks with Congo’s ruling party about outstanding points of contention and to make another call to those opposition parties boycotting the negotiations to participate, opposition leader Jean Lucien Bussa said by phone from Kinshasa.

Congo, Africa’s largest copper producer, has never had a peaceful transition of power. It was due to hold elections in November, but the vote will be delayed as authorities say they need more time to register voters. Talks facilitated by the African Union that began on Sept. 1 to negotiate a transition period were boycotted by Congo’s largest opposition parties who say President Joseph Kabila must step down when his second term ends in December, as required by the constitution.

The contested talks, which were paused on Sept. 17, were due to restart Friday after two days of anti-government protests earlier this week. The country’s powerful Catholic Church has suspended its participation, while a group of opposition leaders known as the G7 who have boycotted the negotiations, called for the removal of the African Union facilitator.

Bussa said his delegation remains committed to the talks, but insisted that any political agreement will need to include a firm date for the presidential vote and a public commitment from Kabila to leave power.

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