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President Obama Urges Peaceful DRC Elections

  • James Butty

President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Joseph Kabila (R) welcomes U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the Palais de la Nation in Kinshasa, May 4, 2014.

President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Joseph Kabila (R) welcomes U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the Palais de la Nation in Kinshasa, May 4, 2014.

An opposition leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo has called on President Joseph Kabila to categorically state that he will not seek a third term because the constitution prohibits him to seek another term.

Martin Fayulu of the Commitment for Citizenship and Development party said the opposition also wants presidential election before local government elections.

This comes after President Barack Obama last week telephoned President Kabila and “emphasized the importance of timely, credible, and peaceful elections that respect the DRC’s constitution”.

A release from the White House said Obama “noted that President Kabila’s legacy as a leader who brought the DRC out of war and set it on a path of continued democratic progress would be consolidated by free and fair elections in 2016.”

Kabila has not said whether or not he’s going to seek a third term. But Fayulu said the opposition welcomes President Obama’s phone call because Kabila has been laying the groundwork for a third term.

“We as the opposition, we really appreciate what President Obama did. We think that according to what is going on elsewhere in Africa, mainly the example of Nigeria where President Goodluck Jonathan has organized election and things went smoothly, we think President Obama told Mr. Kabila to respect the constitution and we agree,” he said.

Fayulu said the opposition wants the election timetable as announced by elections commission changed to have presidential and parliamentary elections before local government elections.

“The timetable that was issued by the electoral commission is not comprehensive because it’s overbooked. And also the budget is too high – $1.1 billion. What we are saying, according to the time we have now, we cannot organize in the same day the local election, municipal election and the urban election, plus the provincial,” Fayulu said.

He said the opposition wants would prefer to have provincial elections in 2015 followed by presidential and legislative elections in 2016.

DRC government spokesman Lambert Mende said those calling on President Kabila to not run are jumping ahead of themselves because Kabila had said he will respect the constitution.

Fayulu said Kabila is playing tricks on the Congolese people.

“We want him to say that I will not contest. But some of his people are telling him to run. That’s why President Obama is telling him to respect the constitution, and we agree,” he said.

He said other signals which indicate that President Kabila wants to stay in power include his recent attempt to change the electoral law so that the presidential election would be conditioned by the holding of a census.

Fayulu also notes that early this year, the ruling majority in the Congolese senate agreed to remove articles in a proposed law that required completion of a vast census before 2016 election.

The White House said President Obama assured President Kabila that the “United States would r3emain engaged in the DRC throughout the electoral process, including through the appointment of a new U.S. Special Envoy to the African Great Lakes Region and the DRC.”

The White House also said the two leaders reaffirmed their share commitment to ending the threat of armed groups, particularly the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

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