Congo Opposition Delegation Withdraws From Election TalksBy
Disagreement over government plan to first hold local vote
Presidential poll due for November will be postponed
The only opposition parties participating in talks to agree on a timetable for elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo walked out of the negotiations due to a disagreement over the sequence of the votes.
The opposition delegation led by Vital Kamerhe said it suspended its participation because it disagrees with a plan by President Joseph Kabila’s ruling coalition to hold local elections before a vote for the executive.
The whole process could take “years,” Kamerhe said Monday by phone from Kinshasa, the capital. “That’s a way of gaining a new mandate, without holding elections.”
Presidential elections in Africa’s biggest copper producer had been scheduled for this year, but delays to preparations such as the update of the voters’ register mean the November poll will be postponed.
Congo’s largest opposition groups, including Etienne Tshisekedi’s Union for Democracy and a coalition of parties backing presidential hopeful Moise Katumbi, say Kabila has purposely blocked vote preparations in order to hold on to power and refused to participate in the talks.
The leader of the government delegation, Senator Leonard She Okitundu, said informal negotiations will continue and that he hoped the opposition would re-join the talks. He insisted that local and other elections should be held before the presidential poll, a sequence that could see President Kabila hold on to power long after the end of his mandate in December.
“We believe that presidential elections are not more important than others,” he said by phone from Kinshasa.
While the government has recently insisted on local elections, such votes were due to be held following Kabila’s election in 2006 and again after his re-election in 2011, without ever taking place.