Congo opposition campaign says it’s in touch with Kabila camp on transition


Congo opposition campaign says it's in touch with Kabila camp on transition
FILE PHOTO: Felix Tshisekedi, leader of the Congolese main opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), and a presidential candidate, leaves after casting his ballot at a polling station in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, December 30, 2018. REUTERS/Kenny Katombe

In Summary

  • Kabila’s camp, however, denied that any such meetings had occurred since the Dec. 30 election, for which provisional results are expected to be announced later this week.
  • The election is meant to bring about Congo’s first democratic transition in 59 years of independence, but tensions are rising as some in the opposition accuse the government of trying to rig the vote.
  • Another disputed result could trigger the kind of violence that erupted after the 2006 and 2011 elections and destabilize Congo’s eastern borderlands with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, where dozen of militia groups are active.

Representatives of a leading Congolese presidential candidate, Felix Tshisekedi, have met with outgoing President Joseph Kabila’s camp to ensure a peaceful transfer of power, Tshisekedi’s campaign said on Tuesday.

Kabila’s camp, however, denied that any such meetings had occurred since the Dec. 30 election, for which provisional results are expected to be announced later this week.

The election is meant to bring about Congo’s first democratic transition in 59 years of independence, but tensions are rising as some in the opposition accuse the government of trying to rig the vote.

Another disputed result could trigger the kind of violence that erupted after the 2006 and 2011 elections and destabilize Congo’s eastern borderlands with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, where dozen of militia groups are active.

Tshisekedi ran against Kabila’s hand-picked candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, and another opposition leader, Martin Fayulu, whom pre-election polls showed with a healthy lead.

Media reports of contacts between Tshisekedi and Kabila’s camps have drawn the suspicion of some Fayulu supporters. They fear Kabila may be looking to negotiate a power-sharing agreement with Tshisekedi if, as most diplomats believe, Shadary trails in the results.

At a news conference, the secretary-general of Tshisekedi’s political party, the UDPS, said that contacts between the two camps were conducive to national reconciliation and that the UDPS “is opposed to any policy of score-settling”.

“The two individuals (Kabila and Tshisekedi) have an interest in meeting to prepare for the peaceful and civilized transfer of power,” Jean-Marc Kabund said.

Tshisekedi’s spokesman, Vidiye Tshimanga, later said Kabila and Tshisekedi had not met personally since the election but that their representatives had convened several times.

Kabila is due to step down later this month after 18 years in power. His refusal to go when his mandate officially expired in 2016 sparked protests in which security forces killed dozens of people.

Barnabe Kikaya Bin Karubi, one of Kabila’s senior advisers and a spokesman for Shadary, denied that there had been any contacts with Tshisekedi or his representatives.

In its own news conference on Tuesday, the ruling coalition accused Fayulu’s campaign and Congo’s Catholic bishops of trying to stoke post-election violence in the vast, mineral-rich central African country.

Last week, the bishops said they knew the winner of the election, a declaration widely seen as a warning to authorities against rigging the vote.

Kabund referred to Tshisekedi on Tuesday as the “presumptive winner”, but did not say what he was basing that on. Shadary’s camp said it expected to win while Fayulu’s campaign also said he was in a strong position to come out on top.

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