The joint summit between the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) in Luanda last week was the last remaining obstacle standing between the government of President Joseph Kabila and a formal delay in the 2016 presidential elections.
As expected, the SADC-ICGLR heads of state formally endorsed the political accord reached in Kinshasa on 18 October. This followed a controversial six-week political dialogue between the ruling party and elements of the political opposition and civil society.
A delegation of SADC foreign ministers from Angola, Mozambique and Tanzania had travelled to Kinshasa days head of the signing. Its statement supporting the national dialogue process was a clear sign that Kabila could count on the region to endorse its outcome.
The political accord sets elections for April 2018 at the earliest, and contains no language about whether or not Kabila can or will stand for a third mandate.
Having secured regional backing, Kabila can now sit back and relax. It is a wholesale victory for him and his ruling party, even if it has been rejected by key opposition parties in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and certain members of the international community.
Part of the support team to the African Union (AU) facilitation led by former Togolese Prime Minister Edem Kodjo, the European Union (EU) issued a statement on 17 October – as the signing seemed imminent. In it, it criticises the fact that the dialogue was not sufficiently inclusive, with key political parties having boycotted the process from the outset.
After the violent crackdown on political protests in September led to the deaths of over 30 people, even the Catholic Church – which had been trying to play a unifying role – eventually withdrew from the talks. It took with it the last bit of credibility that the dialogue may have had.
The EU’s statement came too late in the day to make a difference, and looked like the last-ditch effort that it was. It is also hard to reconcile the supporting role the EU played in the dialogue with its criticisms of the process.
After the September crackdowns, the EU, the UN and the International Organisation of the Francophonie (OIF) should have pressed pause on their support to the process, and insisted on greater participation and an end to harassment and violence....