DRC: Negotiations for a postponement of the elections?

DRC: Negotiations for a postponement of the elections?

The presidential election is still set for December 20, but a “slip” is being negotiated behind the scenes.

The Macronian “Whatever it costs” has become the new official line of communication for power in Kinshasa when it comes to discussing the presidential and legislative elections announced for December 20. Despite the sound of boots in the provinces of Kivu and Ituri, which threw hundreds of thousands of people onto the roads of exile, despite community tensions in the west of the country, despite the difficulties linked to the shortage infrastructure, the delay in certain orders for voting machines, despite political tensions, despite the refusal of certain groups to participate in what they consider to be “an electoral charade” in which “the games are rigged”, the Independent National Electoral Commission (Ceni), major organizer of the vote, and the President of the Republic Félix Tshisekedi, candidate for a second term, hammer home their determination to keep the schedule at all costs. During his recent trip to Brazil, the Congolese president repeated to the Congolese diaspora: “I know that there are people, internally and externally, who want to sabotage the electoral process. But I assure you that I remain determined to succeed in this bet.”

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Doubts and repression

Despite this determination displayed at the top of power, doubt is growing in Kinshasa about the possibility and real determination to organize these elections. “The financing does not follow”, explains a member of the Ceni who points out the slowness in the disbursement of funds by the Ministry of Finance. “This is an observation that we have been making for over a year,” he continues. “All these delays have an impact on compliance with the schedule which is already very tight.” Many emphasize the impossibility of holding a serious election in the east of the country. “In the current situation, it is unthinkable to organize a real election in the two Kivus and in Ituri. However, these are very populated areas and are decisive in a national election”. “Even in Kinshasa, we can ask ourselves questions about the organization of this election,” explains a member of an international body. “Pockets of community violence are at the gates of Kinshasa and the assassination of opposition spokesperson Chérubin Okende was experienced like an earthquake in diplomatic posts. A heinous crime a few months before the elections, opponents behind bars under dubious pretexts, the desire to organize truly inclusive and truly democratic elections takes a hit,” he continues, while explaining that ““It is not the successful celebrations of the Francophonie games that will exonerate the government from its responsibilities.”

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In this context, the Ensemble pour la République party of Moïse Katumbi is at the heart of these issues. “He is already the main opponent and the withdrawal from the presidential race of the Kabila and Fayulu parties exposes him even more. continues a diplomat. The collective of lawyers of Salomon Kalonda, the special advisor to Moïse Katumbi, thrown in prison on May 30, supports this vision. “We have just learned that our client, very weakened by his 75 days of detention in the Ndolo military prison, must appear this August 17. We were notified 72 hours in advance, without having had access to the file. These are very worrying processes but not surprising in the logic of condemnation which prevails within our military justice. The power wants to pass in force”said this Tuesday, August 15, one of Salomon Kalonda’s lawyers.

Attempts at negotiations with Katanga

Pressure is mounting everywhere”, explains another diplomat who points to the need for dialogue between political leaders of all sides. “It’s almost an obligatory passage in this country”. It is not Joseph Olenghankoy, the head of the Saint Sylvester Agreement Monitoring Committee (CNSA) who will say the opposite, he who was mandated by the presidency to lead a mission to former president Joseph Kabila and the opposition leader Moïse Katumbi. A mission that he carried out discreetly in the capital of Haut-Katanga while all eyes were focused on the Francophonie games in Kinshasa. Embarrassed by our call, Joseph Olenghankoy explains that he also met the other candidates and certain personalities. “I saw Fayulu, Sesanga even Mukwege”, he says without denying his discreet arrival in Lubumbashi. Unstated objective, to raise the possibility of negotiation in the event of a postponement of the elections. “In any democracy, dialogue must be prioritized,” he explains. Why this dialogue when the government insists on respecting the constitution and on holding the vote on December 20? “We must put all scenarios on the table”. Like a postponement of a few months or more? “No comment”, cut Olenghankoy who insists on “frank discussions with two principled people”. In Lubumbashi, in the headquarters of the two men, we recognize the meeting. “Why this request for negotiation in a country where everything is going well, where people are partying in Kinshasa”, we explain, a little cynically, in the Kabila camp. “How can we evoke a dialogue when we have our spokesperson in the morgue and the special advisor in prison”, we add at Katumbi. Should we see this as a definitive end to a negotiation? The tone is affirmative in the headquarters of the two Katangese leaders. Joseph Olenghankoy simply explains that he wrote “a mission report which is in the hands of the President of the Republic”.

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The holding of a credible vote on December 20 is widely called into question. “We will have to sit around the table but who will have the best assets”, asks a diplomat who recalls the events of late 2016. “The president who must request this round of discussion is inevitably weakened”he concludes.