DRC's Kabila 'still has a friend in SA', says Zuma

2017-06-25 14:07
Jospeh Kabila (File: AFP)

Jospeh Kabila (File: AFP)

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Pretoria – President Jacob Zuma has made it clear that his counterpart from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila, still has a friend in South Africa.

Despite international concern about violence in parts of the DRC and pressure from some of the DRC’s closest allies for the country to hold its overdue elections, Zuma expressed satisfaction with progress made in that country over the years.

“The DRC of 2017 is no longer the DRC of 2004,” he said.

“The DRC is now politically stable and the security situation has improved. Where there are still challenges, the government of the DRC with the assistance of the region, continent and international community is addressing those.”

Zuma encouraged Kabila and his government “to continue on this path”.

Following a 30-minute private meeting between him and Kabila, Zuma at the start of the meeting between their two ministerial delegations said he was “delighted and honoured” to welcome “our brothers and sisters from the DRC” to the 10th meeting of the Bi-National Commission, during which the countries discussed areas of co-operation, including South Africa’s help with training police officers, the army and diplomats in the DRC.

Dialogue 

Kabila said the DRC had made progress. “These challenges are not at the same level as we had 20 years ago, 15, 10, or even five years ago,” he said, adding the country would be dealing with these challenges together with South Africa.

Referring to the dialogue facilitated by South Africa in 2001, leading up to the country holding democratic elections in 2006, he said the DRC recognised dialogue as being important to solve problems.

“Dialogue in the Congo is permanent,” he said.

Kabila said the DRC would “organise elections together, as a nation together. As political parties and civil society, we still have that objective in our mind, in our sights.”

Kabila, looking much older than his 46 years, sported a full, somewhat scruffy greying beard which he stroked as he listened to Zuma.

Kabila paid a brief state visit to South Africa on Sunday with a small delegation of ministers and officials from 11 government departments, and joked that members of his delegation were Catholic and that it was “sacrilege” for them to miss church.

'We are sinners'

“They corrected and informed me that, in fact, it was our proposal [to hold this meeting] so we are the sinners,” he said. Kabila said the most important thing was that the governments could meet.

He, however, said a lot of progress still needed to be made on economic co-operation, infrastructure, mining and trade, and these exchanges were important for the DRC to move forward.

“Probably what has been hindering a lot of progress is because there is quite a lot of bureaucracy that we need to do away with. How do we go about that with a lot of bureaucrats around us?” he said, half in jest, signalling to the delegation sitting around him.

Meanwhile, a handful of DRC community members stood at the gate of the presidential guest with a banner to protest against Kabila’s continued leadership.

Zuma has been criticised for meeting with Kabila at a time when his closest regional ally, Angola, has been publicly distancing itself from the DRC government.

Kabila’s two terms expired in December and there was no clarity when the elections would be held. An agreement between the parties under the Catholic Church, which states that elections should happen by the end of this year, only exists on paper after it fell apart.


Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  joseph kabila  |  drc  |  sa  |  southern africa  |  central africa

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