Democratic Republic of Congo opposition leader Augustine Kikukama's wife Kuku Itambo has described as "confused" the current political situation in the central African country, which is headed for elections on December 23.
In an interview with News24, Itambo, who deputises her husband in the M17, said although the party was encouraging people to vote in the upcoming elections, there was an element of uncertainty as it remained unclear what would happen to the country after the announcement of the results.
"The situation is quite confused. We don't know what will happen after the proclamation of the results. We, as a party, are pushing people to vote because we believe it’s time for change. We have demonstrated that we are a peaceful party and we don’t want people to keep fighting. It’s not longer time to pick up guns and fight but to vote and make a difference in the country," said Kuku.
The elections will end President Josepk Kabila's rule. Kabila has been in power since January 2001.
The vote is critical for the future of the DRC, a mineral-rich country that has never known a peaceful transition of power since independence from Belgium in 1960, according to AFP.
Kabila's second and final elected term in office ended nearly two years ago, but he stayed in office, thanks to a caretaker clause in the constitution.
Months of speculation over Kabila's intentions, marked by protests that were repressed at a cost of dozens of lives, ended in August when he threw his weight behind Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a hardline former interior minister and loyalist.
Last week at least seven opposition leaders picked little-known Member of Parliament Martin Fayulu as their joint candidate in the vote.
Itambo said M17 was not part of the deal.
Kuku Itambo (Picture: Supplied)
"We are not part of Kabila’s party or the coalition. The fact is almost all the leaders of this so called coalition have worked with Kabila in the past. So what difference are they going to bring to the country? The question is: Are they really willing to work for the prosperity of this country?," said Itambo.
She expressed confidence that her party, which will only contest for parliamentary and governorship seats, will emerge victorious.
"We are not running for presidency and our chances of winning the parliamentary and governorship seats are quite high. We have fielded at least 355 candidates in at least 22 of the 26 provinces of the country," said Itambo.
She said that her party had a membership of seven million, which constituted 10% of the country’s population.
Asked whether she thought the elections were going to be free, fair and credible, Itambo said: “There is no way we can have a fair election in a country that is hugely known for corruption. We know that people are using public money for themselves and not for the country. So we can’t develop the country.
"We are one of the richest countries in the world and yet most of our people are living on $1 a day. We are among the top 10 richest in the world but most of our people are suffering because people are using the country’s resources to enrich themselves.
"What I’m aiming to say is that there is no way elections can be held fairly in the DRC when opposition parties do not receive campaign funds from the government," she said.
She accused the ruling party of using government funds to remain in power.
Kuku Itambo (Picture Supplied)
Itambo also raised concern over the country's electoral commission, which she said was designed in such a way that it favoured the ruling party.
AFP reported in August that mountainous hurdles faced the country’s elections as the government had rejected offers of advice, oversight and election funding from abroad.
The authorities, the report said, had rejected the appointment of South African former president Thabo Mbeki as "special envoy" to the ballot, a role announced in the press but not officially confirmed by Pretoria.
"I can tell you that there will be no special envoys to the DRC, even if they are Thabo Mbeki" - the host of peace negotiations that ended the Second Congo War in 2003 - President Joseph Kabila's diplomatic adviser, Barnabe Kikaya Bin Karubi was quoted as saying at the time.
Observers "tend to behave like proconsuls. They don't respect the DRC's autonomy. We want to mark our sovereignty", added Communications Minister Lambert Mende.