DRC national dialogue in danger of missing critical opportunity – experts

DRC national dialogue in danger of missing critical opportunity – experts

The proposed national dialogue in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) could be yet again a missed opportunity to cement national reconciliation and restore ‘real’ democracy in a country highly divided and in danger of breaking point, experts and independent analysts said.

While the initiative of convening national political talks is key to reaching a new political consensus, and gives effect to long-awaited governance reforms, one cannot help but ask whether this important platform will be yet another missed opportunity, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) said in its weekly report published last week.

Under pressure from the international community and from both the political and military fronts, Congolese President Joseph Kabila has called for Concertations Nationales, in an effort – as he put it – to strengthen national cohesion, heal the wounds of the past and move his war-torn country forward.

But Pretoria-based ISS researchers Naomi Kok and David Zounmenou said  the initiative is already marred by controversy around three key challenges, in addition to terminology issues.

Firstly, Kok and Zoumenou explained, the long awaited national talks are meant to conclude within 15 days, with a possible extension of a maximum of five days.
The maximum total of 20 days is a very ambitious timeframe, which an issue for concern, given that the previous Congolese talks of 2001 took several months to conclude, they noted.

“Secondly, the opposition and civil society organisations have felt excluded from the preparations for the talks. As usual, the opposition is very divided and has not had much success in contributing to the dialogue’s agenda.

The opposition parties held a conclave at which their own agenda was to be decided, but the two biggest parties, Etienne Tshisekedi’s Union pour la Démocratie et le Progrès Social (UDPS) and Jean-Pierre Bemba’s Mouvement pour la Liberation du Congo (MLC), were not officially represented, ISS reported.

“In addition, opposition parties feel an external facilitator – UN Special Envoy Mary Robinson or Congo-Brazzaville President Denis Sassou Nguesso – is required to enhance the credibility of the process and guarantee a meaningful consideration of the resolutions.

“Thirdly, even if, against all odds, an accord is reached, there is no provision for implementation. Many believe that the government has already decided on the agenda and the outcomes, and that the national talks will not tackle the deep-rooted causes of instability in the DRC.”

If past experience is anything to go by, the problem lies more with the chances of effective implementation than the exercise itself, the report said.

This bleak forecast for the outcome of the talks is of particular concern at this point in the DRC’s history, because now more than ever the DRC cannot afford to miss an opportunity to implement long-term political reforms that will help lead to long-term peace, the international think-thank concluded.

Photo: A Congolese child weeps as she walks alongside her mother to escape the war in the eastern DRC. Credit: courtesy of ISS.

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