In my posting on the Crisis Group report from a couple of days ago, I said I didn’t know whether they were right that it would be impossible to hold elections by November 28 and that therefore the opposition and majority should hold talks to postpone the polls. Since then, I have spoken with several Congolese and foreign observers about this, with most backing the Crisis Group analysis, although many Congolese are categorical about respecting the constitutional time limits (i.e. no postponing of elections).
But opinions vary. I decided to reproduce here an email from a western diplomat in Kinshasa who follows these issues closely:
My feeling was that the [ICG] report didn’t sufficiently take into account developments in March and April – it was clearly written when we were all deeply concerned by the changes to the Constitution and how they were made, and by the political appointments in CENI, particularly the nomination of Pasteur Mulunda as President. Since then, Mulunda has been at pains to demonstrate CENI’s independence by consulting extensively with the Opposition and agreeing a primarily political calendar, against the Majority’s preferred option (decouplage). As far as I understand, discussions on the electoral law have also been a series of small victories for the Opposition – Lumanu hasn’t even bothered to come defend the Government position during the debate in Parliament. I had hoped that the ICG report might analyse why the Majority was giving the Opposition so much space all of a sudden. Is Kabila basically confident that he can win, and therefore at pains to keep the Opposition on board? What do you think?
On the calendar, I defer to what the experts in PACE and MONUSCO tell me, which is that the calendar is just about achievable but very difficult, with absolutely no space for slippage. Since this is DRC, to me that means it’s unlikely the dates will be kept. It’s a high-risk strategy for CENI. My guess is they’re hoping that by spelling each step out, they can then blame whoever is responsible for the delay – the Parliament if the law takes longer to pass than envisaged (which it is likely to), the international community if any of the procurement or logistics are delayed, Government if it takes too long to disburse, etc.