Carien du Plessis, News24
Pretoria – The Southern African Development Community will be sending a former head of state to the Democratic Republic of Congo as a special envoy amidst increasing tensions in that country due to overdue elections.
There were still consultations “aimed at finalising this matter”.
President Jacob Zuma, who assumed the SADC chairpersonship at this weekend’s summit, said in his closing address on Sunday that the summit has also urged the DRC’s Independent National Electoral Commission to publicise the revised electoral calendar.
These steps came amidst protests by DRC citizens living in South Africa outside the Department of International Relations headquarters where the summit was held.
They demanded that the DRC withdraw from SADC because SADC wasn’t doing anything to help the situation in the country.
They also objected to President Joseph Kabila attending the summit, even though he wasn’t present.
DRC Prime Minister Bruno Tshibila, who attended on Kabila’s behalf, told journalists after the summit the country was “very happy that the SADC heads of state condemned the undue interferences by the countries outside the DRC, especially in view of the sanctions they have imposed on some of the individuals in the DRC in violation of the sovereignty of the DRC”.
He said the DRC would receive “logistical support” from SADC in organising the elections, but the calendar would be decided by the electoral body after government did its evaluations.
So far 39 million voters had been registered, with the aim being 41 million. DRC ambassador Bene M’Poko also said registration had started in the Kasai provinces, which has recently seen conflict.
The security situation in the DRC has become increasingly fraught after a December deadline for elections was missed and a peace agreement brokered by the Catholic Church in December fell apart.
The opposition demanded that elections be held before the end of this year, but Zuma said the SADC summit “noted that this might not be possible to hold elections in December 2017, due to a number of challenges currently receiving attention”.
Clear time-bound roadmap
The European Union and the United States have been applying targeted sanctions at top officials in the country in order to pressure the DRC towards elections.
According to the summit communique, read by executive secretary Stergomena Tax, the summit urged that the December peace agreement be implemented and be supported by the international community and all stakeholders in the country.
Zuma also said the summit was happy that Lesotho was enjoying more stability.
The summit has urged Lesotho to submit “a clear time-bound roadmap on the implementation of all SADC decisions and Commission of Inquiry by November 2017”, he said.
The summit also bade farewell to Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos, who is set to step down later following elections this month after almost three decades in power, and Botswana president Ian Khama, who is set to finish his term next year before the next summit in Namibia.
The summit also agreed to admit Comoros as sixteenth member state of SADC, while the application by Burundi to join was described as “work in progress”.