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Angola seeks smooth exit for Kabila in DR Congo

ICGLR leaders in a pre-summit discussion. The one-day Summit ended Tuesday in Angola
Great Lakes leaders in a pre-summit discussion recently in Angola. Angola is calling for a smooth transfer of power in DRC

United Nations, United States | AFP | 

Angola said Wednesday that a date must be set for presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo that will allow a smooth handover of power from President Joseph Kabila.

Angola and France will be leading a Security Council visit to the DR Congo next week to meet with Kabila, opposition leaders and civil society in a bid to ease tensions over the holding of the vote.

“I want the elections to be set, to be done orderly and then let someone else continue to run the country,” Angola’s Ambassador Ismael Gaspar Martins told reporters.

“I think that is doable,” said the ambassador.

Angola is an influential player in the DR Congo and a key backer of the Kinshasa government dating back to the two wars of the 1990s and early 2000s when Luanda provided crucial military support.

The 15 council envoys will visit Kinshasa, Goma and Beni from November 10 to 14 for meetings that the French ambassador said were an “important exercise in preventative diplomacy.”

They will also travel to Luanda to meet with President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

There have been growing fears that the DR Congo, one of Africa’s biggest and resource-rich countries, could descend into chaos after some 49 people were killed in anti-Kabila demonstrations in September.

Last month, a political deal was reached between Kabila’s party, its allies and some smaller opposition groups to delay the presidential election — due to have been held this year — until April 2018.

But the main opposition Rassemblement (Gathering) coalition rejected it, branding it a ploy by Kabila to stay in power beyond the end of his term.

The Catholic Church, which has a strong voice in the country, has criticized the deal and called for more dialogue.

A ‘good’ date for elections 

The Angolan envoy said the council can demand that a date be set for the vote but he stressed that this must be a “good date… so that we do not have elections and then confusion.”

Kabila, who has been in power since 2001, “should end his term and let someone else be elected, but he cannot sit aside and let the country in a vacuum do elections and stay stable,” added the ambassador.

“We want the Congolese to agree on something which is orderly, which guarantees stability in the country and we in the region should be able to support whatever is selected by the Congolese,” he said.

The UN envoy for the Great Lakes region, Said Djinnit, told the council on Wednesday that the government must reach out to the opposition that rejected the political deal to try to build an “inclusive process.”

During its visit, the council will talk to all sides to “ensure that they fully realize the responsibility that they have in preserving peace in the country,” said French Ambassador Francois Delattre.

Congolese politicians must show they are willing to compromise to prepare the elections as soon as possible, he added.

US Ambassador Samantha Power has said elections should be held in 2017.

The DR Congo has been ruled by Kabila since his father Laurent was assassinated in 2001.

Kabila was elected in 2006 to his first five-year term under a constitution that sets a two-term limit for presidents.

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