Opponents of President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo have accused him of calling for national dialogue as a ploy to stay in power longer than his two terms.
President Kabila mooted the proposal to deliberate on how to hold peaceful elections in November next year, saying the national dialogue was to avoid a repeat of the 2011 election in which the results were violently disputed by the opposition.
But the opposition claims it is a delaying tactic that will go beyond the scheduled November 2016 presidential election.
President Kabila conducted a similar exercise in 2013 to address issues affecting the country, but none of the recommendations were implemented and it only succeeded in luring some opposition members to the government side.
Leading opposition party Movement for the Liberation of Congo, led by Jean-Pierre Bemba who is currently at The Hague on war crimes charges, has refused to present its views, saying that some of the 2013 resolutions, like the allocation of 40 per cent of national revenue to provincial administrations, have not been implemented.
Jumping the gun
Foreign Minister and government spokesman Lambert Mende said the census was needed to ensure a more accurate voter register, and accused the opposition of jumping the gun on the issues of a third term because the president has said he will respect the Constitution.
There were massive public protests in January when the Lower House passed a motion calling for a national census before the 2016 election.
Yolande Bouka, Institute for Security Studies senior researcher in charge of Central Africa and the Great Lakes region, told The EastAfrican that President Kabila’s quest for a third term faces major obstacles in his ruling coalition, the opposition, the Catholic Church, and in his home province of Katanga.
“The January protests were a sign of things to come. Should more protests erupt as the elections approaches, the situation could be more violent than recently witnessed in Burundi,” said Dr Bouka.