Congo's Kabila pledges to implement reforms after national dialogue

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 05, 2013 12:26 PM
Congo's Kabila pledges to implement reforms after national dialogue

DAKAR (Reuters) - Congo's President Joseph Kabila pledged on Saturday to turn the recommendations from three weeks of national dialogue into policies to tackle the central African nation's daunting social, institutional and economic problems.

The talks in the capital Kinshasa were boycotted by some members of opposition political parties, who said they were denied the opportunity to discuss the validity of Kabila's disputed 2011 presidential election triumph.

Closing the meetings, Kabila said he would convene a joint session of the two houses of parliament on Thursday to discuss legislation based on the recommendations, which were not made public.

"I will submit the report and bring together the two houses to show the nation what has been done so we advance on these important measures," Kabila said in a short speech, without providing any policy specifics.

Congo ranks bottom of the United Nations Human Development Index. Millions of people have died in eastern Congo from violence, disease and hunger since the 1990s as foreign-backed insurgent groups have fought for control of the region's rich deposits of gold, diamonds and tin.

Philippe Biyoya of the presiding committee said that restoring institutional legitimacy - damaged by the row over Kabila's reelection two years ago - had been central to the discussions.

He said the recommendations included specific reforms to the national electoral commission CENI ahead of presidential elections due in 2016. Some members of the opposition have accused Kabila, who is legally barred from standing again, of wanting to change the constitution to seek a third term.

Thomas Luwaka of opposition party MLC, whose leader Jean-Pierre Bemba is in the Hague facing war crimes charges before the International Criminal Court (ICC), welcomed the recommendations but demanded action from the government.

"What matters to us is that the delegates want to revisit Bemba's case to try to secure his release," said Luwaka.

It was not immediately clear how Congo could secure the freeing of Bemba, who ran against Kabila in a 2006 elections.

The ICC has disregarded calls from Kenya to drop charges against President Uhuru Kenyatta for allegedly orchestrating violence before the contested 2007 elections in which 1,200 people were killed. His trial is due to begin in November.

The call to review Bemba's case was among recommendations aimed at seeking reconciliation with opposition including amnesty and pardons for imprisoned politicians and the reopening of media outlets that had been shut down.

There will not be amnesty for leaders of repeated armed rebellions in the Congo's turbulent east, delegates said.

Moise Nyarugabo of the RCD-Goma party, a former rebellion-turned-political party and member of the committee charged with community conflict and peace, said Kabila's government had the freedom to select which measures it would implement.

"The government has a lot of room for maneuver," he said.

(Reporting by Pete Jones, Editing by Daniel Flynn and Ralph Boulton)