Crunch talks between the DR Congo government and opposition will start next week, aimed at avoiding political chaos when the president’s term expires late this year, an African Union mediator said Saturday.
Congo’s opposition had originally spurned the talks, proposed by President Joseph Kabila in November 2015, insisting that several political prisoners must first be released.
Most however still remain in detention.
Former Togolese prime minister Edem Kodjo, who brokered the talks on behalf of the AU, said in Kinshasa that the negotiations will begin on September 1 and last for two weeks.
He added that the release of some opposition figures was a palpable sign that “nothing is closed, nothing is lost, everything is open”.
“We are not here to concern ourselves with our own problems, we came here for Congo’s future,” he said.
Tension has been building for months in the vast mineral-rich nation of 71 million over fears that Kabila will follow in the footsteps of neighbouring heads of state and change the constitution to extend his rule into a third term.
The country’s highest court earlier this year ruled that Kabila could stay in office beyond the scheduled December date if no election were held.
Under the constitution Kabila must call elections three months before the end of his term on December 20.
Opposition spokesman and parliamentarian Jean-Lucien Bussa said Kabila’s political rivals had agreed to join the national dialogue to “allow the Congolese people who aspire to the first democratic transition in the DRC” to be involved in the presidential vote.
Government spokesman Lambert Mende said: “We have finally found a compromise.”