For more than four hours on Friday, 30 June, in a suite on the 21st floor of the Fleuve Congo hotel in Kinshasa, the chairperson faced his detractors: the opponents Martin Fayulu, Matata Ponyo Mapon, Delly Sesanga and Dieudonné Bolengetenge, the secretary general of Ensemble pour la République, who represented Moïse Katumbi.
“The discussions were frank,” a participant in this meeting – the first between the president of the Commission électorale nationale indépendante (Ceni) and the main opponents of Tshisekedi – told us. The aim was to iron out differences ahead of the general elections scheduled for 20 December.
Fayulu surprisingly moderate
In recent months, the Congolese opposition has constantly criticised a “chaotic” electoral process and accused the electoral commission of keeping an opaque electoral roll. Did Friday’s meeting help to ease tensions?
In any case, it was a surprisingly moderate Fayulu who spoke to the press following the discussions. “We suggested to the president of the electoral commission that they post the lists of registered voters, continue the process, while still maintaining an audit,” he said. “If the audit reveals that the file was correct, that it has discrepancies of 2% or 3% that can be overcome, we agree; however, if the file is not [usable], we will take our responsibilities.”
The various parties therefore agreed on the posting of the lists of registered voters. With regard to a new audit of the electoral register by a qualified international body, as demanded by the opposition, Kadima promised to submit the issue to the Ceni plenary session.
Can the latter still authorise a second audit of the register? This seems unlikely, given the deadlines and timetable for electoral preparations. The new law on the distribution of seats, drafted on the basis of the current electoral register, was put into effect on 15 June and, since 26 June, Ceni has begun to receive national deputy candidatures. The process is due to run until 15 July.
Against the empty chair policy?
On 19 June, Fayulu announced that his party would not field candidates if electoral register transparency was not guaranteed. This decision has not yet been followed by his opposition comrades, and is causing controversy even within his own party. On 29 June, MP Ados Ndombasi announced that he was leaving Fayulu’s Ecidé party, deploring an “empty chair policy that is not paying off”.
After meeting with Kadima, will Fayulu change his strategy? “We are in the process of finding a solution. You will have the first answers in terms of reliability with the lists posted,” he said.
Katumbi fears that he will be sidelined from the elections if the Tshiani law, which reserves certain functions for Congolese born of Congolese parents, is adopted.
For his part, Kadima regretted the criticism, which, in his view, was “too harsh”, particularly when it referred to a “chaotic process”. “The electoral commission president was forthright,” said our witness at the meeting, who added that a number of “misunderstandings” had been cleared up.
According to our interviewee, the opposition is also very concerned about the inclusiveness of the elections, which is not the direct responsibility of the electoral commission. It has to be said that two declared candidates for the supreme magistracy saw their ambitions possibly thwarted.
Mapon, the former prime minister, could soon be caught up in the Bukanga Lonzo affair, which has already led to him being put on trial for embezzlement, and Katumbi fears that he will be sidelined from the elections if the Tshiani law, which reserves certain functions for Congolese born of Congolese parents, is adopted.
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