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Kodjo's battle for dialogue in ever-volatile DRC
30 August 2016

At the 27th African Union (AU) summit in Kigali, Rwanda last month, the PSC Report caught up with Edem Kodjo, AU special envoy to facilitate a national dialogue in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The dialogue is aimed at breaking the political deadlock over elections that should take place before President Joseph Kabila’s second and last term expires on 19 December 2016.

What can you tell us about the national dialogue in the DRC, which you have been charged with organising as the special envoy of the AU in the country? 

You’re right that we are busy trying to put in place this dialogue, and at this point I don’t see any major obstacles in organising it. We have managed to make contacts, to talk to the parties that up to now haven’t been very open, and we have managed to get their agreement. Everything is in place for the dialogue to start, and as far as I am concerned it should start soon.

In your view, will all the opposition leaders, including Moïse Katumbi [former governor of Katanga] be at the table for this dialogue?

The main dialogue in the DRC has to consist of the political heavyweights
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At this stage I don’t know the composition of the delegations that will participate in the dialogue. We are starting with a preparatory committee. It is a small group that is going to try and prepare the talks. The main dialogue has to consist of the political heavyweights. Political personalities of all ranks should have their place at the dialogue. So at this moment Mr Katumbi, if his party decides so and if his supporters decide so, will participate.

Are you the main mediator in this dialogue? We have seen joint statements by the United Nations (UN) and others. 

I am the facilitator. There isn’t a whole range of them. It’s only me. But the facilitator is lucky to be helped by what we call the support group, which is made up of first and foremost the UN and the AU, and also the European Union, the Francophonie, the ICGLR [International Conference of the Great Lakes Region] and SADC [Southern African Development Community]. Constituted as such, the support group really makes an important contribution that allows the facilitator to do his work much easier than if he had been on his own.

Where will this dialogue take place? In Addis Ababa or Kinshasa?

Preferably Kinshasa. The preparatory committee that I am convening will meet in Kinshasa.

Do you think that elections could take place before the end of the year, as the constitution requires?

I really don’t know. As you know we have consulted widely on this issue with the international organisations that are the most experienced, the most authoritative. At the UN there is a commission made up of 10 members [that deals with this]. There is also the independent electoral commission and the Francophonie. But in my opinion, given where we are now … everyone knows very well, even those who don’t want to say it, that it will be very difficult to have elections in November when we are already in July and we don’t even have the information for the electoral list ready.

It will be very difficult to have DRC elections in November
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Are you worried that there will be major civil society protests if the elections do not take place?

This is not the kind of question that I respond to. I’m not here for that. I’m here to do a job and I don’t get involved in such considerations. It’s a question that you should ask politicians.

The election of a new chairperson of the AU Commission has been postponed. Are you worried that the AU might be in limbo for several months because even the commissioners will have to wait until January 2017 before being elected?

It’s too early to say. I don’t know what the heads of state have planned because no-one has been elected. We don’t know yet whether Madame [Nkosazana Dlamini] Zuma will continue until the elections are held or whether they will find an interim solution. It is up to the heads of state.

Information accurate as of July 2016, when the interview was conducted. This article was first published by the PSC Report.

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