DAYS after a coup was foiled in neighbouring Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo president Joseph Kabila, who is also thought to be planning a third term bid, has called for a “national dialogue” to discuss creating an environment that will enable peaceful elections set to take place through 2016.
The Congolese electoral commission, the government, political parties, civil society groups and donors “all have a role in ensuring the proper execution of our electoral mandate,” DRC communication Minister Lambert Mende said Tuesday in an e-mailed statement.
“An active dialogue among these groups has been proposed by our government, and is being pursued at this time,” Mende said.
The push for talks comes after more than 30 people died in January protests in Africa’s biggest copper-producing nation against a new law requiring that a national census be first held before the vote, which the opposition said could have allowed Kabila to extend his final term by at least two years. The law was eventually amended by parliament.
The Independent National Electoral Commission published a calendar in February that called for a cycle of local and provincial elections beginning in October and continuing through March 2016.
Elections for president and the national assembly are scheduled for November 27 next year, according to the calendar.
The total cost of the polls will exceed $1.1 billion, according to the electoral commission.
Leaders of several opposition parties again rejected the government’s latest proposal and said it was an excuse to postpone the elections, in a statement e-mailed Tuesday.
The electoral schedule is “unrealistic” and the government should postpone local elections until after the national votes in 2016, said the leaders, including Jean Lucien Bussa, former head of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, and Vital Kamerhe, who finished third in the 2011 presidential poll.
Kabila’s camp would have taken note of developments in Burundi, where at least 20 people died in weeks of street battles with security forces following protests over president Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third five-year term.
Burundi protesters say the attempt is against the constitution and the terms of the peace deal that brought an end to the country’s 13-year civil war in 2006.
Generals last week launched a foiled coup attempt to dislodge Nkurunziza who was away in Tanzania, but admitted defeat after fierce fighting with loyalist troops.
Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader and born-again Christian who believes he has divine backing to lead the country, argues his first term did not count as he was elected by parliament, not directly by the people.
Protesters have this week restarted protests, defying warnings to end weeks of demonstrations, insisting they would stay the course until Nkurunziza withdrew his third term bid.
Developments in the two countries will be closely watched internationally, due to their potential to destabilise the region.
Already, more than 100,000 Burundis have fled to neighbouring nations, most to them to Rwanda, from political violence according to the UN.