KINSHASA - The Democratic Republic of Congo’s president, Joseph Kabila, says the country will hold what he calls a national and inclusive political dialogue. The agenda appears to be focused on elections, and some observers believe the president has his own future in mind.
President Joseph Kabila's speech comes a week after his invitation to the United Nations to help recruit an international facilitator for a political dialogue. In his speech, broadcast Saturday, Kabila laid out reasons for holding this dialogue, all linked to upcoming elections.
He mentioned disagreements over the voter list, the election timetable, and security around elections, all of which he said could undermine the process.He noted that previous national polls in 2006 and 2011 were marred by violence between political parties.
He also said there are questions about the role the political class will play in promoting peaceful elections.
Do people need to set the country ablaze because they lose the vote, he asked?
Funding will also be a key topic, Kabila said.
He said the electoral commission estimates the next cycle of elections will cost $1.2 billion, while the government envisages it costing only $500 million.
From now on, Kabila said, can we not commit to thinking about cheaper ways of holding elections, as they have in other countries?
Political commentator Mike Mukebayi, editor of the newspaper Congo News, said that suggestion could be a hint that Kabila and his supporters would like to move the country towards indirect presidential elections, like they have in neighboring Angola.
When Kabila talks, Mukebayi says, he does not sound like a president at the end of his term, he talks as if he wants to stay there.
And why, Mukebayi asks, if the president has realized there are problems in the electoral system does he only talk about them now at the end of his term, when they are no longer his problem?
Kabila's second elected term is scheduled to end in December 2016.
Congo's biggest opposition party, the UDPS, has said it is ready for a dialogue with international mediation.
But some other opposition parties reject the idea, saying Kabila could use it to stay in power.