Congo's Kabila Calls for Dialogue, Criticizes Opposition

Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila used his state of the nation address to call for support for a national political dialogue to discuss the organization of elections next year and criticized opposition parties for rejecting the talks.

“It is not through violence that we will resolve our differences and our solutions will not come from the United Nations, or from foreign countries in the East or in the West but rather from ourselves and through a Congolese dialogue,” Kabila said in a speech Monday to both houses of government.

Congo is due to hold a series of national, provincial and local elections over the next year, culminating in a presidential vote in Nov. 2016, but votes to elect governors and provincial assemblies in October were already delayed. The electoral authority has so far failed to publish a revised calendar and Kabila, 44, has not publicly confirmed whether he will step down when his mandate ends next year. He won elections in 2006 and 2011 and the constitution bars him from standing for a third term.

In November, Kabila announced that the country would organize a national political dialogue to discuss issues including the election calendar, an idea rejected by the opposition. They say Kabila intends to use negotiations to hold on to power by encouraging a review of the electoral process and constitution that will allow him to either delay the vote or seek a third mandate.

The president used the speech to warn his political opponents who he says intend to use demonstrations to undermine national stability. “I will not allow the sacrifices we have made together in recent years to fight for peace to be compromised by those who in bad faith will chose to hold on to their negativity and reject dialogue.”

Kabila did not say when the negotiations would take place.

The government would continue to invest in critical infrastructure including roads, electricity generation, fiber-optic communications and transport networks, he said, citing the new state-owned airline, Congo Airways. The carrier made an inaugural flight in October and plans to increase domestic flight routes in 2016. 

Kabila said the economy would grow at 7.7 percent in 2015, reflecting the revised growth rate published by the prime minister’s office in November. The government cut a previous forecast of 8.4 percent due to declines in the global price of copper and oil, two of the country’s most important exports.

The president said all Congolese territory was now under the control of his government, though regular clashes between United Nations and Congolese army troops against rebel forces continue in parts of the country. Over 18,000 foreign military personnel remain in Congo as part of the UN mission.

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