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Compromise Could Clear Path to Elections in DRC

FILE - People walk under a giant poster showing Democratic Republic of the Congo's President and candidate for a second term Joseph Kabila, in Kinshasa, Nov. 7, 2011.

Government and opposition leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo announced a compromise late Wednesday that could pave the way to elections next year.

They have agreed to hold all elections at the same time if the technical and financial means allow it, and to delay the local polls if they do not.

But the political future for Congo remains unclear, given that no dates have been set and some top opposition parties have refused to take part in the talks.

Vita Kamerhre, the leader of the opposition delegation to the talks, had marched his team out of the dialogue Monday over the sequencing of the polls. The opposition argued that the presidential poll must come first. However, the president's side has long favored holding local and provincial polls before the legislative and presidential votes.

A solution had to be found quickly, Kamerhre said, and the election order could not violate the constitution.

Speaking to reporters late Wednesday, Justice Minister Alexis Thambwe, who is leading President Joseph Kabila's delegation at the dialogue, raised the prospect of a government reshuffle to incorporate opposition members taking part in the talks.

"We will manage the country together," Thambwe said, but did not give further details.

Some predict Kamerhe will become prime minister and several others will assume smaller roles in a new cabinet, which will be presented to the country as a government of national unity.

Both delegations say polls won’t be held until at least July 2017, which is the time needed to conduct a full update of the voter roll.

Opposition coalition

The vote was due in November. Most of the main opposition parties — which have accused Kabila of trying to cling to power beyond the constitutional two-term limit — have refused to participate in the dialogue.

Those parties have formed a coalition called Le Rassemblement, the Assembly, which is headed by veteran opposition politician Etienne Tshisekedi. They argue the dialogue is simply a means for the president to buy time to change the constitution so he can run again.

Tshisekedi's former chief of staff, Albert Moleka, participated in the early stages of the talks, then quit.

"The absence of good faith on the part of Mr. Kabila's delegation means I don't see any reliable agreement coming out of this dialogue,” Moleka said. “[Wednesday’s] decision means that at least part of the opposition has come to terms with Mr. Kabila staying in power beyond his constitutional term. That's the main objective Kabila had, having some time beyond his legal term so that he can reorganize his own troops then put on the table again the idea of a referendum or changing the constitution so that he can run again."

Le Rassemblement plans to hold a demonstration Monday to protest the electoral commission's failure to organize elections.