This week (beginning 1 August), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) opposition will assess whether the government has respected its conditions to go to negotiations after it also urged the African Union (AU) to change the facilitator for the national dialogue in the country.
The demand comes as the country heads into fresh turbulence. The Congolese people are expecting presidential elections in November, but signs suggest that the current president, Joseph Kabila, is seeking to hold on to power beyond his mandate. Under the current Congolese constitution, presidents can only serve a maximum of two terms.
In June, veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi gathered Congo's fractured opposition in Genval on the outskirts of Brussels, Belgium, in an unprecedented attempt to agree on a common strategy to oust Kabila. During the meeting – dubbed 'Conclave' – the parties forged an alliance, the Rassemblement ("Rally", in French).
In mid-June, the Rassemblement met with an international panel, which included the AU, European Union, International Organisation of the Francophonie and two sub-regional organisations, the Southern African Development Community and International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and Edem Kodjo, former Prime Minister of Togo who the AU appointed to lead the mediation in the DRC.
Opposition demands Edem Kodjo is replaced
The opposition has reiterated its threat that it will not participate in any dialogue with Kabila because it believes Kodjo is biased – as it alleges the Togolese has too many ties with Kabila.
"Kodjo is under mandate from Mrs Zuma [President of the AU commission], whose husband is very friendly with Kabila," Raphael Katebe Katoto, a politician and member of the Rassemblement, told IBTimes UK.
"We want the most honest politician (to be facilitator). I really think the AU will accept because when we received the international panel in Brussels, we already addressed our problem to the AU council that is effectively Edem Kodjo's boss. They seemed to agree with us and have in their possession certain elements that may have compromised Edem Kodjo's neutrality," the politician explained over the phone.
According to Katebe Katoto, who attended the meeting with the international panel, members of the Rassemblement were told the AU had previously asked Kodjo "to stay neutral". In May, a pro-dialogue faction of the Congolese opposition had already given Kodjo a seven day ultimatum to resign from the facilitation.
CENI: Elections won't be held by year's end
The government rejected fresh demands from the opposition that elections are called on 19 September – 90 days before the end of the president's mandate, as stipulated in the Constitution – and Kabila step down by 19 December.
Information Minister Lambert Mende explained the electoral commission (CENI) had already announced "that there is no way to organise election before the end of this year because the electoral census has started and will not end before 10 months".
"If the CENI does not call for elections on 19 September, we consider that the elections won't be held within the strict constitutional timeframe. Therefore, we are giving a three-month notice to the tenant who is staying in the Palais de la Nation [presidential residence] for the moment. He must hand over the keys of the palace," Katebe Katoto said. "We will assume our responsibility and the people will accompany us."