An opposition delegation walked out of key talks Monday aimed at averting a political crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, calling them a “dead end.”
“We have understood that we are being led down a dead end street and so we have decided to suspend our participation” in the national dialogue, Vital Kamerhe, who represents those elements of the opposition that had decided to take part in the talks, told journalists.
The African Union-facilitated national dialogue began on September 1 to try to prevent a crisis when President Joseph Kabila’s term expires later this year, as fears grow that he will seek to stay in power for a third term despite a consitutional limit of two mandates.
“The crisis today is the non-holding of the presidential election,” said Kamerhe.
While the election process is meant to be set in motion three months before Kabila’s term expires on December 20 — that is by September 19 — there is little sign of this happening and the electoral commission has said registering voters across the vast central African country cannot be completed until next year.
The country’s highest court earlier this year ruled that Kabila could stay in office beyond December if no election were held.
“This situation was knowingly created by the government,” added Kamerhe, who heads the Union for the Congolese Nation, the third largest opposition party in parliament.
But “we have our red lines: hold the presidential election as a priority.”
“Our friends in the majority have just suggested we start with local elections,” but our position on the presidential vote is “non-negotiable,” he said.
The bulk of the opposition has boycotted the talks from the get-go, calling them a “trap aimed at allowing Kabila to stay in power for as long as possible.”