The Catholic Church of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has threatened to withdraw from the “national dialogue” if it turns into a political forum meant to push for a “disguised mandate” for incumbent Joseph Kabila.
The National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) said in a statement on Tuesday that any attempt to extend Kabila’s constitutional mandate which ends later this year will end their participation in the Edem Kodjo led national dialogue.
Abbot Donatien Shole, CENCO’s delegate at the dialogue, told AFP that he was “satisfied” with efforts to engage some members of the “Rally”, a newly formed coalition led by historical opponent Étienne Tshisekedi in the dialogue.
“The CENCO cannot continue to participate in this dialogue if the fulfillment of these basic requirements is no longer assured, if they ever begin to negotiate what may look like a disguised mandate, we leave the dialogue,” he stated.
The national dialogue called by the incumbent president began on September 1 under the aegis of a facilitation of the African Union (AU) mediator, former Togolese Prime Minister, Edem Kodjo.
The dialogue which is also backed by the United Nations, the European Union and other bodies is aimed at getting DRC out of a political crisis that has rocked the country since the disputed re-election of Kabila in 2011.
Kabila has been in power since 2001, and is constitutionally bound to step down after serving two terms (winning 2006 and 2011 elections), opponents accuse him of deliberately delaying the Nov. 27 poll to cling to power.
Earlier this year, the country’s highest court ruled in May that if the November polls do not hold, Kabila could remain in power until the next election is held.
In March, the U.N. Security Council called on the country to organize elections this year, but the government said logistical and budgetary obstacles made it unrealistic. The election commission has said it needs more than a year to update voter rolls.
The Catholic Church, the dominant faith in the DRC with some 40% of Congolese being adherents, has played a leading role in the process of democratization in the DRC at the beginning of the decade 1990. Its withdrawal from the ongoing process might strongly affect the credibility.
The country’s electoral body recently stated that elections were not feasible within this year and that a credible register for polls could be ready by middle of 2017. Even with that, opposition members still insist that Kabila should step down at the end of his term.
The dialogue has been set into motion but according to political watchers it could not prove as effective with major players like Etienne Tshisekedi and Moise Katumbi option out. The Lucha party also announced pulling out of the dialogue just when it was about to start.