3 March 2017

South Africa: Mbeki 'Hands-Off in DRC', but Wants to See Peace

Former president Thabo Mbeki is still interested in seeing peace and democracy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but he would not get involved in issues there.

Two human rights organisations have asked for solidarity and assistance from Mbeki and the Thabo Mbeki Foundation in the quest to pressure for elections in that country to take place this year according to a multi-party agreement on 31 December 2016.

Mbeki's spokesperson, Mukoni Ratshitanga, said although the former president "remains keenly interested in peace, democracy and the all-round development of the sister African country, the DRC, he is not currently involved in the DRC".

During his term as president, Mbeki helped facilitate peace talks and the Sun City Agreement in 2002, and South Africa also gave logistical and other assistance to the country in the subsequent two elections.

South Africa has also contributed troops to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the east of the country.

Lack of funds

Tshiswaka Masoka from the Lubambashi-based Research Institute on Human Rights at a recent briefing in Johannesburg blamed DRC president Joseph Kabila for causing a "crisis" in the country, after the country missed its December deadline for organising elections.

The country's electoral body has complained of a lack of funds and also said it had to do a census, which would take at least 18 months.

This has, however, fuelled suspicion that Kabila was trying to extend his term longer than what is constitutionally allowed.

Masoka said Kabila had been trying to exercise power "outside the constitutional framework".

He said the mandates of senators and members of the National Assembly have expired, so in order to keep their power they have to keep from asking questions about Kabila's rule.

Masoka also said the military and police had been used to violently suppress anti-government protests.

"The only chance to implement the (December) agreement is based on the people, churches and international community's support and the pressure on politicians to respect it," Masoka said.The death of prominent opposition figure Étienne Tshisekedi last month has left a vacuum in opposition ranks and has added to the challenges of implementing the agreement, he said.

Source: News24

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