Congo Mediation Efforts by Catholic Church Falter
After a month of diplomacy by the Catholic Church to overcome the Democratic Republic of Congo’s political impasse, President Joseph Kabila’s ruling coalition today dismissed the effort as a “failure.” This could block any chance of an inclusive agreement before the December 19 deadline, when Kabila’s constitutionally mandated two-term limit will be up.
During a press conference today in Kinshasa attended by Human Rights Watch, archbishops of the Catholic Church’s Conference of Episcopal Bishops in Congo (CENCO) noted that many of the most contentious issues remain unresolved. The archbishops also called for direct talks between the main parties. The disagreements, they said, are regarding the constitution and how it should be respected; the sequencing, timing, and financing of elections; the independence of the electoral commission; how institutions will function during the transition period; and measures that will be taken to ease political tensions.
If all parties “take initiative and show good will,” the archbishops said, a political compromise is still within reach. Warning that “the hour is grave” and that “without an agreement, anything can happen,” CENCO called on all sides to act responsibly to “prevent our country from plunging into an uncontrollable situation.”
Hours after the press conference, the ruling coalition published a statement calling CENCO’s efforts a “failure.” The coalition blamed the opposition for “flagrant contradictions” and “demands harmful to the spirit and text of the constitution,” and regretting the “time unnecessarily lost.” They then called on the president to implement the “national dialogue” agreement, which would allow Kabila to stay in power at least until April 2018, and which most main opposition parties did not sign.
The Rassemblement opposition coalition “noted with satisfaction” the continued commitment of the archbishops to search for an “appropriate solution” to the crisis “which could end in chaos.” It reiterated its commitment and willingness to participate in a “truly inclusive dialogue” and supported the call for direct talks between the parties to find a peaceful solution to the crisis before the end of Kabila’s second term.
At the request of President Kabila, Catholic bishops had begun consultations in early November with opposition and civil society groups, seeking, as one of the bishops told us, a consensus that would prevent the country from collapsing into violence after December 19.
In other news, Rodrigue Bintene Mimbo, a researcher with the Congolese polling institute Bureau d’Etude de Recherche et de Consulting International was released from detention yesterday. Intelligence agents arrested him on June 26, 2016, after he had spent two weeks conducting research in Congo’s central Sankuru province for a nationwide opinion survey, which found that three-quarters of those polled wanted President Kabila to step down on December 19. Mimbo was never charged with a crime.