Congo minister says unity government possible; vote delayed

Sep 15, 2016

Congo's justice minister says unity government possible as presidential election delayed

KINSHASA, Congo — Congo's ruling party is proposing an interim unity government with the opposition as an election set for November now seems nearly impossible, though President Joseph Kabila would remain in charge, the country's justice minister said.

The development came late Wednesday as the government and some opposition parties concluded several days of talks on the electoral process. They agreed to hold presidential and legislative elections on the same day, though a date has not been set.

Election officials have said the electoral lists will not be ready until July 2017, and many fear that the delay will bring unrest. Some in the opposition have said it is meant to keep Kabila in power after his mandate ends in December.

In an effort to diffuse tensions, Justice Minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba said the ruling party and opposition could share power, even though Kabila would remain as president until a vote is held.

One opposition figure, Vital Kamerhe, said nothing had been finalized.

"The dialogue is not yet finished," he said. "We came here to see if together we can give the people a path to the elections in peace."

Kabila, who came to power after the 2001 assassination of his father, is barred by term limits from seeking the office again. Under the constitution, however, he can remain in power beyond December if no election is held.

Already, human rights groups are expressing concern about a crackdown on the opposition. In a report released this week, Amnesty International said Congo's government "is using state institutions to prevent people who oppose a prolongation of President Kabila's term in office to organize and express themselves."

Amnesty noted leading opposition figures such as Moise Katumbi, who fled into exile after he accused his enemies of trying to poison him. Katumbi did not take place in the government's dialogue with the opposition.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende denied that dissidents were being repressed.


Associated Press writer Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal, contributed to this report.