DR Congo: Kabila convenes 'national dialogue'

Congolese President Joseph Kabila delivers a speech at the start of "national consultations" at the People's Palace in Kinshasa on September 7, 2013. The "national consultations" are aimed at putting an end to the political, social and security stalemate in the country amid a boycott by the main opposition party. PHOTO | AFP 

Some 700 people from various DR Congo provinces representing political parties and civil society organisations are participating in talks mean to bring cohesion and peace in the country.

During the opening ceremony in Kinshasa on September 7, President Joseph Kabila was applauded when he said that jailed political leaders would be released.

The President had suggested the peace roundtable back in December last year as a way of resolving the unrest in North Kivu province of eastern DRC.

He recalled previous moments of national crisis when the country got together to dialogue, namely the national sovereign conference summoned during the Mobutu Sese Seko regime and the Inter-Congolese Dialogue sealed in Sun City, South Africa, in 2002.

Three former vice-presidents out of four who had been in office - Abdoulaye Yerodia, Z’Ahidi Arthur Ngoma and Azarias Ruberwa Manywa - were present at the Sun City ceremony.

The only one absent was Jean-Pierre Bemba, who is currently in custody at the International Criminal Court at The Hague where he faces crimes against humanity charges.

Political prisoners

However, some key opposition leaders have snubbed Kabila’s talks, the most prominent being the veteran politician Etienne Tshisekedi, whop still claims to have won the 2011 presidential election.

The other is Vital Kamerhe, the leader of the Union for the Nation (UNC) party, who has been saying that President Kabila wants to use the ongoing dialogue to change the constitution and extend his presidential mandate.

Kabila has denied the claim.

The political leaders expected to benefit from Kabila’s amnesty offer are Jacques Chalupa, a former presidential candidate, Eugène Diomi Ndongala, jailed for allegedly raping underage persons, Pastor Fernando Kutino, jailed over security charges.

It is also being speculated that the amnesty would cover conspirators who participated in the assassination of Kabila’s father, Laurent-Desire Kabila.

Other people who should benefit from amnesty are the people who allegedly participated in the 2001 assassination of President Laurent-Désiré Kabila, the father of the incumbent president.

The national dialogue is organised in conformity with the Addis Ababa agreement which called on the DRC government to summon a national conference in order to have a frank and sincere debate on the security challenges facing the country.

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