DRC: the opposition meets in South Africa to nominate a single presidential candidate

We take almost the same ones and start again

DRC: the opposition meets in South Africa to nominate a single presidential candidate

We take almost the same ones and start again. Same capital, same hotel, same mediation organization and same objective. Representatives of the five main opposition candidates in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) − Denis Mukwege, Moïse Katumbi, Martin Fayulu, Delly Sesanga and Matata Ponyo Mapon − have been meeting since Monday, November 13, in a luxurious private and closed estate from the east of Pretoria, in South Africa, with mediators from In Transformation Initiative (ITI), to try to present a joint candidacy against the outgoing head of state, Félix Tshisekedi, in the presidential election scheduled for December 20.

The non-governmental organization (NGO), specializing in conflict resolution, had already been contacted by the Congolese opposition, for the same purpose, before the 2018 election and when the succession of Joseph Kabila was at stake. founders participated in negotiations between the racist Afrikaner government and the liberation movements that led to the fall of the apartheid regime in 1994 and South Africa's first democratic elections. Since then, this country has become “an international model of peace and hope”, boasts the NGO’s website.

His method: take the candidates out of their usual environment, bring them together out of sight and away from media noise for several days. The debates discussed in plenary session can thus continue in a more relaxed manner over breakfast and dinner. Proximity invites the candidates' representatives to get to know each other more personally, even if, in this case, they hardly need it.

“No comment. It going "

This bubble is essential, according to ITI. “The success of this type of initiative, especially during the preliminary phases, is precisely that it takes place without too much communication. Discussions need to move forward. If, on the first day, all the candidates share their point of view with the media, we will not move forward at all. It’s very delicate,” insists a good connoisseur of the NGO’s methods. “No comment. “It’s progressing,” the representative of a solicited candidate rightly responds.

The delegates were divided into two commissions to work on the criteria for a joint application and project, knowing that the security issue in the east of the country is already a consensus between them. The commissions handed over their roadmap on Thursday to five facilitators, members of ITI, as well as Lucha, a Congolese civil society organization. Discussions followed and the work should end on Friday with the finalization of a final version. The question of the trip to Pretoria by the various candidates themselves had not yet been decided on Thursday evening, while time was running out: the electoral campaign began on Sunday.

“I believe that there is something positive, a certain harmony, a desire to reach a conclusion that can satisfy all parties,” said Thursday the representative of a candidate who followed the negotiations from Kinshasa and says he appreciates “the working method which seems objective”. The experience of 2018, however, calls for caution. Despite months of negotiations, including a session in Pretoria in September, candidates Félix Tshisekedi and Vital Kamerhe withdrew from the agreement signed twenty-four hours earlier in Geneva which had designated Martin Fayulu as the sole candidate of the opposition.

“All we want is for the one who will be designated as a common candidate to be chosen unanimously to avoid the mistakes of the past,” said a delegate. “Given the way the work is being carried out, I believe it will be possible to get there,” he adds optimistically. Was the atmosphere good? “Between politicians in a debate for the conquest of power, I cannot guarantee that,” jokes the same delegate. But, beyond the differences, we are moving forward. »

Diplomatic destination

The content of the negotiations within the Congolese opposition also interests the South African host. The government has not publicly discussed these discussions or responded to requests from Le Monde, but “it is keeping an eye”, believes an observer cited above. In 2018, opposition candidates were received at the headquarters of the African National Congress (ANC), the ruling party.

For South Africa, these talks reinforce its image as a diplomatic destination where conflicts can be resolved around the table. A year ago, the Ethiopian government and the Tigray Popular Liberation Front signed a peace agreement in Pretoria after spending several days at an undisclosed location. This would be proof “that African solutions are possible for African problems”, rejoiced the South African Ministry of International Relations in a press release for the first anniversary of the agreement, on November 2.

Beyond the image, the stability of the DRC interests South Africa. A contested election would likely force President Cyril Ramaphosa and member countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to spend Christmas together. An electoral crisis could also further compromise the stability of the DRC while the South African army has 1,144 men within MONUSCO, the United Nations Mission. Although Congolese citizens do not represent the largest immigrant population, this possibility could push more people into exile in South Africa as Pretoria toughens its tone on the issue of illegal migrants ahead of its own general elections. of 2024. One election can hide another.