Democratic Republic of Congo’s president called for talks with his political opponents before a series of elections in Africa’s biggest copper producer next year.
“I have decided this day to organize an inclusive national political dialogue and to put in place a preparatory committee to manage all aspects of its organization,” President Joseph Kabila said late Saturday in a recorded address broadcast on state television.
He said the dialogue will address issues including the funding of the votes and the election calendar, which must now be adjusted following delays.
Kabila didn’t specify when the discussions would begin nor who would join the committee. He said the dialogue would benefit from international mediation, a demand made by Congo’s largest opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress.
The presidential election in November 2016 should be the first democratic transfer of power in the central African country of 75 million people since civil war ended in 2003.
Opposition politicians have previously said offers of dialogue are part of a plan that would allow Kabila to maintain power. He’s led Congo since 2001, when his father, President Laurent Desire Kabila, was assassinated. He won elections in 2006 and 2011; the constitution doesn’t allow him to run for another term.
A series of six local, provincial and national elections were originally scheduled for this year and next, culminating in the presidential vote. Elections for provincial assemblies, due Oct. 25, were missed. The election of governors for 21 new provinces was also delayed, with the government instead using a ruling by the constitutional court to directly appoint special commissioners to run the provinces until elections can be held.
Opposition parties such as Vital Kamerhe’s Union for the Congolese Nation and Martin Fayulu’s Engagement for Citizenship and Development have said they wouldn’t participate in such talks.
“The dialogue is a strategy to distract the political opposition and to diffuse the pressure that we have been generating,” Fayulu said in an interview in the capital, Kinshasa, on Nov. 25.
Kamerhe described it as a strategy by Kabila to change the constitution and secure a third mandate.
“We will not participate in a dialogue that is a trap,” he said in an interview in Lubumbashi, southeastern Congo, on Nov. 7.