Inside DRC

Obama calls Kabila amid sour relations 


US President, Barack Obama, has spoken with the Congolese President, Joseph Kabila, regarding the coming 2016 general elections.

THE White House confirmed the telephone conversation saying it took place on Tuesday.

Obama emphasised the importance of timely, credible, and peaceful elections that respect the DRC’s constitution and protect the rights of all DRC citizens.

He noted that President Kabila’s legacy as a leader who brought the DRC out of war and set it on a path of continued democratic progress would be consolidated by free and fair elections in 2016.

President Obama assured President Kabila that the United States would remain engaged in the DRC throughout the electoral process, including through the appointment of a new U.S. Special Envoy to the African Great Lakes Region and the DRC.

Under Congo’s constitution, presidents may serve only two consecutive terms.

President Joseph Kabila’s second term ends in 2016.

While presidential elections are not scheduled until November 2016, political tensions have been rising across the country.

In January 2015, at least 40 people were killed when security forces brutally repressed demonstrations in Kinshasa and other cities to protest proposed changes to Congo’s electoral law that would have delayed elections and enabled Kabila to prolong his term.

In May 2014, US Secretary of State, John Kerry, while on his African tour, told Kabila to respect the Congo constitution which now suggests that his reign ends in 2016.

In September 2014, Kabila secretly stole off to US to push for his third term.

In January 2015, Jen Psaki, the Department Spokesperson Washington, DC, asked Kabila to expeditiously sign the electoral legislation as passed by the Parliament and reaffirm that Congo’s first peaceful transition of power will take place through presidential elections in 2016‎.

Armed groups

The two leaders (Obama and Kabila) reaffirmed their shared commitment to ending the threat of armed groups, particularly the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

Obama further encouraged cooperation between the Armed Forces of the DRC and the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DRC in operations against the FDLR.

President Obama also discussed with President Kabila the pending adoptions in the DRC by American families and urged a timely resolution to this situation.

Sour Congo-US relations

Last month, Congo accused US of funding “armed insurgency” against President Kabila.

This came after a USAID Democracy, Rights, and Governance Director, Kevin Sturr, was detained by Congolese authorities along with a number of journalists and other participants attending a press conference in Masina.

Among those arrested on Sunday March 15 were; Congolese activists, musicians, journalists, technicians, and bystanders; youth leaders and activists from Senegal and Burkina Faso; a US diplomat; two French journalists; and the French director of a production company.

US agreed to had sponsored the activists claiming the event was “well-known, well-regarded and non-partisan” intended to promote Congolese youth participation in the political process.

However, the government spokesman, Lambert Mende, insisted the US was funding radical groups to started an armed struggle against Kabila.

Mende told journalists that the activists from Senegal and Burkina Faso were “promoting violence through a form of training … coaching of certain youth groups close to a certain opposition to use violent means against other groups or against the institutions of the republic.”

However, Obama’s call to Kabila gives hope that the two nations will mend the rift and straighten ties once more.

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