Congo politi­cians agree Ka­bila tran­si­tion deal

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

KIN­SHASA:

Con­golese politi­cians have agreed in prin­ci­ple to a deal un­der which Pres­i­dent Joseph Ka­bila leaves of­fice by the end of 2017, op­po­si­tion lead­ers said yesterday, an un­ex­pected break­through af­ter dozens were killed in anti-gov­ern­ment protests this week.

If the deal does suc­ceed, it would be a ma­jor achieve­ment for the Catholic church, which has been me­di­at­ing talks in an at­tempt to pre­vent Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of Congo slid­ing back into years of an­ar­chy and civil war. Pope Fran­cis has heaped pres­sured on Ka­bila and the op­po­si­tion to find a peace­ful so­lu­tion to the cri­sis in Congo. “At first glance, a mir­a­cle is pos­si­ble and the bish­ops have won their bet,” Al­bert Moleka, for­mer chief of staff to the leader of the main op­po­si­tion bloc Eti­enne Tshisekedi, said.

A gov­ern­ment spokesman said the pro­posal would be pre­sented to the full del­e­ga­tion at the talks on Fri­day af­ter­noon, but he de­clined to com­ment on the specifics of the deal. In re­turn for Ka­bila stay­ing on for an­other year, the con­sti­tu­tion will not be changed to let him stand for a third term, a prime min­is­ter will be named from the main op­po­si­tion bloc and Tshisekedi will over­see the deal’s im­ple­men­ta­tion, op­po­si­tion lead­ers Martin Fayulu and Jose En­dundo told Reuters.

“Ka­bila stays for one year,” Fayulu said. “He will not try to stand for a new term.” How­ever, Ka­bila him­self has so far said noth­ing and the par­ties have yet to sign the deal, which re­quires fi­nal ap­proval by all del­e­gates at the talks. Church lead­ers have pre­sented these talks as a last ditch ef­fort to pre­vent vi­o­lence spin­ning out of con­trol af­ter a bloody week that saw protesters killed and deadly clashes be­tween var­i­ous eth­nic mili­tia across the coun­try.

BLOODY PROTESTS

The head of the UN hu­man rights agency said yesterday that Con­golese se­cu­rity forces had killed at least 40 peo­ple and ar­rested 460 in protests this week. The vi­o­lence has raised fears Congo is head­ing to­ward an­other ma­jor armed con­flict, a risk that has prompted sev­eral donor na­tions to con­demn Ka­bila for fail­ing to stand down. Mil­lions were killed in wars be­tween 1996 and 2003. “Most of ... (Ka­bila’s coali­tion) would wel­come this (deal) be­cause they’re un­der so much pres­sure,” said Pas­cal Kam­bale, a Con­golese hu­man rights lawyer work­ing for the Open So­ci­ety Foun­da­tions.

But Jean Marc Kabund, the sec­re­tary gen­eral of Congo’s largest op­po­si­tion party, the UDPS, warned that the deal was not yet a sure thing. “To­day is the last day (of ne­go­ti­a­tions),” he told Reuters. “It’s make it or break it.” A pres­i­den­tial elec­tion sched­uled for last month had been post­poned un­til at least April 2018 be­cause of what the gov­ern­ment said were de­lays reg­is­ter­ing vot­ers. This deal would mean it must hap­pen by the end of next year. Ka­bila has de­clined to com­mit pub­licly to not chang­ing the con­sti­tu­tion to ex­tend his term, lead­ing many to con­clude that this is what he se­cretly wants to do. His al­lies have ar­gued that he is com­mit­ted to re­spect­ing the con­sti­tu­tion but that promis­ing to step down would make him a lame duck and pos­si­bly spark a power strug­gle that could put his life in dan­ger. —Reuters

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