Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) President Joseph Kabila has committed to unlocking the impasse over the staging of the national elections in his country. This emerged following a meeting between Kabila and President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria on Sunday.
The postponement of the DRC presidential election scheduled for December 2016, led to protests in September last year, which left some 50 people dead. The opposition has accused the government of delaying elections to keep President Joseph Kabila in power.
The government says vote preparations, including a census need about 18 months. After holding private talks with Kabila, President Zuma called for the resumption of negotiations to resuscitate stalled talks over elections timelines.
“The people of the DRC need to determine and decide their political future through negotiations and dialogue. We wish to reiterate that dialogue not conflicts is the best way to resolve problems. We wish to convey our solidarity and support.”
We need to strengthen our economic cooperation by increasing trade and investment
In response, Kabila has assured President Zuma that he is still supporting mediation efforts led by the country’s influential Catholic Church aimed at paving the way for all-inclusive pre-election negotiations. “And dialogue in the Congo is permanent. We will use dialogue as a tool for governance. The objective of the current dialogue is that lets organise elections together as a nation and we still have that objective in mind and in our sights.”
The two leaders also discussed the volatile situation in the mineral-rich North Kivu region. The M23 and Mai Mai rebel groups continue to mount attacks against civilians and the Congolese army.
The DRC government has repeatedly accused the Rwandan government of backing armed rebel groups, a charge denied by the Kigali administration. Reading out the SA-DRC Bi-national commission communiqué, International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said both leaders condemned interference by foreign countries in the Congolese internal affairs.
“They agreed that it’s imperative for Africa to draw its on its own resources for peace and security. They expressed concern with interference of outside actors in the domestic affairs which threatens to undermine the sovereignty of African countries.”
Both Presidents Zuma and Kabila have in the meantime used the South Africa-DRC Bi-National Commission meeting to review the bilateral co-operation between the two countries. They have agreed to bolster cooperation in sectors such as security, defence, energy, infrastructure development, governance and finance.
South Africa is the DRC’s biggest supplier of foreign goods and services amounting to more than 20% of the country’s total imports.
“We need to strengthen our economic cooperation by increasing trade and investment between our two countries and by enhancing business and people to people cooperation. Among the projects that should be pursued with great vigour is the Grand Inga Hydro Power project.”
President Kabila has invited South African companies to increase investments in the mining sector.
“A lot of work has been done and a lot still needs to be done. The exchange of experience in mining is important. What has been hindering progress is bureaucracy and we have to do away with that.”
The two leaders presided over the signing of the implementation of the treaty on the avoidance of double taxation and a memo on the enhancement of cross-border travel. Click below for more on the story:
– By Tshepo Ikaneng