DR Congo opposition apparently talking to Kabila

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A Congolese presidential candidate’s representatives apparently met with outgoing President Joseph Kabila’s camp to ensure a peaceful transfer of power.

Kabila’s camp denied any meetings since the December 30 election, for which provisional results are expected this week, with supporters of another candidate, who led opinion polls ahead of the vote, said they feared government was manoeuvring to squeeze him out.

Members of opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi’s campaign spoke with representatives of Kabila’s hand-picked candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, in meetings aimed at promoting national reconciliation.

Kabila and Tshisekedi “have an interest in meeting to prepare for peaceful and civilised transfer of power,” Jean-Marc Kabund told a news conference at which he said Tshisekedi was the “presumptive winner”.

Tshisekedi’s spokesman, Vidiye Tshimanga, later said Kabila and Tshisekedi had not met personally since the election but their representatives convened several times.

Barnabe Kikaya Bin Karubi, a spokesman for Shadary and one of Kabila’s senior advisers, denied contact with Tshisekedi or his representatives.

Supporters of Martin Fayulu, the opposition candidate who had a healthy pre-election poll lead, voiced suspicions Kabila may be looking to negotiate a power-sharing agreement with Tshisekedi if his preferred candidate, Shadary, loses.

Fayulu and six other presidential candidates issued a statement on Tuesday saying: “electoral results cannot be negotiated and under no circumstances will we or the Congolese people accept such results”.

In a tweet, Fayulu’s Lamuka coalition criticised Tshisekedi for saying in an interview with a Belgian newspaper Kabila deserves praise for agreeing to step down.

Kabila is due to leave office this month but his refusal to go when his mandate expired in 2016 sparked protests in which security forces killed dozens of people.

“Falsifying the history of Congo by attributing to Mr. Kabila a false role in the advent of the democratic transfer of power would be an insult to the memory of our martyrs who died for democracy,” it said.

URGENT MEETING

The election is meant to bring about Congo’s first democratic transition in 59 years of independence, but a disputed result could trigger the type of violence that erupted after 2006 and 2011 elections and destabilise Congo’s eastern borderlands with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, where militia groups are active.

The streets of Goma were deserted on Tuesday after a rumour spread that results were about to be announced. The election board has not given a date for the release of results, already delayed past Sunday’s deadline.

Zambian President Edgar Lungu’s office was travelling to South Africa on Tuesday for an “urgent consultative meeting” with President Cyril Ramaphosa about the election.

Domestic observer mission SYMOCEL said it witnessed 52 major irregularities, including people tampering with results, in the 101 vote counting centres it monitored. There are 179 counting centres tallying the vote.

Its findings and those of a Catholic Church observation mission that noted significant irregularities are likely to fuel complaints about the result once it is announced, although regional observers said the vote went “relatively well”.

In its own news conference on Tuesday, the ruling coalition accused Fayulu’s campaign and Catholic bishops of stoking post-election violence.

Last week, the bishops said they knew the winner of the election, a declaration seen as a warning to authorities against rigging the vote.