Political parties in the Democratic Republic of Congo say a breakthrough is imminent following their talks to bring political stability to the country. The crux of the agreement centres around President Joseph Kabila stepping down within a year – followed by general elections.
Kabila’s mandate expired on Tuesday but he has remained in office. A presidential election scheduled for last month was postponed until at least April 2018 because of what the government said were delays in registering voters. Scores of people were killed in protests calling for Kabila to step aside.
Roman Catholic bishops who have mediated during weeks of talks were upbeat about reaching a deal in time for a planned signing ceremony on Friday. But Congo’s main opposition bloc warned that several significant differences remained. Catholic Bishops Conference president, Marcel Utembi told reporters that they have finished practically 95 percent of the work and that there remains a short way to go.
However, divisions persisted over whether the prime minister will come from the main opposition bloc, and the composition of the electoral commission, which the opposition accuses of pro-government bias.
Under the deal, Kabila would stay in power for a year but the constitution not be changed to let him run again.
The opposition says if the divergences are not bridged, it will be difficult to sign this accord. A deal could be a breakthrough for a country that has not seen a peaceful transition of power since independence from Belgian colonial rule in 1960.
It would also come as a surprise following a week in which security forces killed dozens of people protesting Kabila’s tenure.
Under the deal, Kabila would stay in power for a year but the constitution not be changed to let him run again. There was no immediate comment from Kabila, whose representatives participated in the talks.
The last day of the talks between the ruling coalition and opposition parties began at 11am local time after negotiations went through the night.
– By Lehana Tsotetsi