AFRICA/DR CONGO - Tension on the eve of the expiry of Kabila’s mandate; for the Bishops "dialogue must continue"

Monday, 19 December 2016 politics   elections   bishops  

Kinshasa (Agenzia Fides) - "Dialogue must continue in order to find a solution to the political crisis". This is the meaning of the message of the Bishops of the Democratic Republic of Congo, sent to Agenzia Fides, with regards to the negotiations carried out by the local Episcopal Conference (CENCO) between the presidential majority, the opposition which signed the agreement of 18 October (see Fides 18/10/2016) and "Le Rassemblement", the acronym of the opposition which is demanding precise guarantees that President Joseph Kabila does not remain in power after the end of his second and last term which expires at midnight tonight, 19 December. According to CENCO, the negotiations held so far "show the interest of the participants to work together for the best interests of the Country" but "participants have surrendered to the evidence that one cannot address the key issues that the entire nation is facing in a hurry".
The message announces the resumption of talks on December 21, on their return from Rome, where today His Exc. Mgr. Marcel Utembi Tapa, Archbishop of Kisangani and President of CENCO, and Vice President, His Exc. Mgr. Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, Bishop of Bokungu Ikela will meet Pope Francis. After the Angelus yesterday, Sunday, December 18, Pope Francis recalled the difficult situation in the DRC: "I ask you all to pray that dialogue in the Democratic Republic of Congo might unfold with serenity, in order that all types of violence can be avoided, and to pray for the good of the whole Country".
In the DRC there is a lot of tension particularly in the capital, Kinshasa. The streets of Kinshasa are deserted, patrolled by the police.
"Le Rassemblement" issued a statement in which it stresses that there are "deep differences" on the following points: the end of the President’s mandate; functioning of the institutions after 19 December; commitment of all parties not to change the Constitution; commitment of President Kabila not to try to obtain a third term.
"Le Rassemblement" also adds that the talks under the aegis of CENCO have failed to reach an agreement on the electoral process (the election date, restructuring of the Independent Electoral Commission), reiterating that for "Le Rassemblement" the presidential elections are to be held by 2017. The agreement of October 18 instead says that the presidential elections are to be held in the spring of 2018. (LM) (Agenzia Fides 19/12/2016)