KINSHASA — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on Congolese President Joseph Kabila to respect his country's constitution and not run for a third term. The U.S. is pledging additional funding for elections and for helping to demobilize fighters in eastern provinces.
Following talks with President Kabila in Kinshasa, Secretary Kerry announced an additional $30 million in support for "transparent and credible" Congolese elections. U.S. officials say that means respecting electoral timetables and constitutional limits that prevent Kabila from seeking a third term in 2016.
The president's political opponents fear Kabila will again change the constitution to allow another term as he did in 2011.
Kerry says he believes the president's legacy will be defined by improving security in eastern provinces and putting Congo on a "continued path of democracy."
"He's a young man with an enormous amount of time to be able to continue to contribute to his country," said Kerry. "And I'm quite confident that he will weigh all of those issues as he makes a decision about the future. But clearly the United States of America believes that a country is strengthened, that people have respect for their nation and their government, when a constitutional process is properly implemented and upheld by that government."
Kerry commended the Kabila government's work to combat ethnic militia in eastern Kivu provinces and said the Obama administration will continue to help improve standards of living there.
"Lasting peace will not grow out of the barrel of the gun. It will come from restoring state authority and state services and providing the capacity-building that is necessary in those areas that have been recaptured from armed groups," said Kerry.
Much of the turmoil in Congo's east stems from the upheaval of the Rwandan genocide 20 years ago and two wars against the government in Kinshasa, the first of which brought the president's father Laurent Kabila to power.
Kerry said it is important that Congo and its eastern neighbors Uganda and Rwanda follow through on demobilizing those combatants that qualify for amnesty while holding to account their leaders.
"People who may have been engaged in crimes against humanity, war crimes, those people remain liable for that. But others who sign the agreement and sign the amnesty are permitted to and encouraged obviously, must return to their homes," he said.
U.S. Special Envoy to the Great Lakes former Senator Russ Feingold says the Obama administration is working with Congolese authorities to establish mixed-courts at trial and appellate levels that would have a majority of Congolese jurists but would also include other African judges.
Those courts would be empanelled to try leaders of groups such as the M23 militia, which the United States says was backed by Rwanda, as well as the FDLR, which includes some of those who led Rwanda's genocide.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame says demobilizing Kivu militia must include all of the groups fighting there, including the FDLR. Secretary Kerry says he discussed that issue with President Kabila and says the Congolese leader gave his word that "he has a specific process in mind and timing."