SA backs SADC call for DRC to consider forming a government of national unity

2019-01-13 17:09
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Pretoria has backed a call by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to consider a proposal to form a government of national unity.

This follows elections in the DRC - the results of which were announced on Thursday.

On Saturday, the presidential runner-up Martin Fayulu filed a challenge to the election results in the DRC’s constitutional court, claiming that former president Joseph Kabila had done a backroom deal with the declared winner, opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi, the Associated Press reported.

Fayulu’s decision to do so was applauded by international relations and cooperative governance minister Lindiwe Sisulu at a press briefing on Sunday.

While she would not be drawn on allegations that the election results were fraudulent, calling questions from reporters on this mere allegations, Sisulu said the DRC’s constitution allowed for such a legal challenge.

As such, it should be welcomed, she said.

Also on Sunday, Sisulu was at pains to point out that South Africa did not want to prescribe to the DRC about what next steps it should take.

But if the DRC decided to take this route, South Africa had experience in this regard, having formed its own government of national unity at the end of apartheid, she said.

Doing so had been a difficult "pill to swallow", she said, but it had ultimately been the right decision.

Sisulu said accusations had flown in, "fast and furious", that South Africa had been "quiet" on the DRC question since the election.

She said the country was not able to state its position publicly until the United Nations Security Council had discussed the issue, as South Africa had asked for that discussion to be postponed.

It had now taken place.

She said the DRC should be "congratulated" for holding a peaceful election, considering the country’s violent past and the fact that over 600 political parties participated.

This was the first "comprehensive" election since the DRC gained independence, Sisulu said. 

After the press briefing, Sisulu's department forwarded a statement on Sunday from Zambian president Edgar Chagwa Lungu, who said the SADC wanted all political leaders to consider a "negotiated political settlement", "given the strong objections to the provisional results" of the DRC elections. 

Speaking in his capacity as chairperson of the SADC organ on politics, defence and security, Lungu said he had spoken to the leaders of SADC and the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region.

"SADC draws the attention of Congolese politicians to similar arrangements that were very successful in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya where governments of national unity created the necessary stability for peace," said Lungu. 

"SADC therefore encourages all parties to enter into a political process towards a government of national unity in order to enhance public confidence, build bridges and reinforce democratic institutions of government and electoral process for a better Congo."

SADC had taken note of objections to the election results by the Roman Catholic Church in the DRC, the Lamuka opposition coalition and other observers, and said a recount would "provide the necessary assurance" to all parties.

Asked if it would be correct to say that South Africa thus agreed with SADC's position on the proposal to consider a national unity government, Sisulu's spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya said yes.

"SA agrees with SADC on the proposal for DRC political parties and the political roleplayers to consider a negotiated settlement as an option and this will include a government of national unity," he said via text message.

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