During his recent visit to the United States, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Minister of information, H.E. Lambert Mende Omalanga briefed the Catholic Task Force for Africa (CTFA), a coalition of Catholic advocacy groups in Washington DC metro area. The briefing which took place at the Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN) office on January 11, 2017, focused on the current state of affairs in the DRC and the role of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in brokering peace in the transition process.
As to why the elections were delayed, the Minister explained that during the second term of President Joseph Kabila the DRC was attacked twice from its boarder in the East. For this reason, it was not possible to plan for elections as this would have resulted in holding elections in some parts of the country and not in others, namely those in war zone. Furthermore, he continued, there were financial challenges related to holding elections is a huge country like the DRC. In this regard, he pointed out that the DRC’s budget is approximately 7 billion US Dollars while the election cost is estimated at 1.8 billion US Dollars.
Given these and many other reasons, President Kabila, he added, called on the opposition for a meeting to find a solution to the situation. Unfortunately, the opposition waited too long to come to the table because of its dependency on outside influence particularly Belgium and France. The opposition wanted outside mediators and the President Kabila wanted Congolese stakeholders to resolve the issue by themselves and among themselves.
The compromise was to allow the African Union mediator who is African and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops who are Congolese to be mediators. On October 18, 2016 under the facilitation of the African Union the President’s majority party and some members of the opposition signed an agreement on the way forward including the nomination of a Prime Minister from the opposition. The Prime Minister was confirmed by the President.
Because the October 18, 2016 agreement did not end the crisis, Catholic Bishops demanded a more inclusive dialogue which included those who did not take part in the dialogue facilitated by the African Union. The President agreed, he said, to the mediation of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. On December 31, 2016 another and more inclusive agreement facilitated by the Catholic Bishops was signed. Minister Mende characterized this December agreement as a complement to the October one.
AFJN ceased the opportunity to interview Minister Mende to better understand why the elections were not held in accordance with the constitution, the process in place for the elections to be held, the reason for the intervention of the constitutional court, the role of the committee to follow up the implementation of the agreement, and the way forward after the recent political dialogue facilitated respectively by the African Union in October 2016 and the DRC National Conference of the Catholic Bishops in December 2016.
AFJN has for a long time advocated for peace in the D. R. Congo and an end to economic exploitation and pillaging of its natural resources and for an end to the senseless killings and destruction of communities. AFJN continues to call on DRC leaders to uphold human rights, justice, transparency, and adherence to the constitution.