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Democratic Republic of Congo Opposition Joseph Kabila Etienne Tshisekedi

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United DRC opposition split on talks with Kabila

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UDPS leader Etienne Tshisekedi during closed-door meetings with key opposition activists meeting in Lake Genval, near Brussels. THIERRY CHARLIER / AFP

Key opposition parties in the Democratic Republic of Congo have united under a new platform baptised "Rassemblement" or "Rally", to put pressure on President Joseph Kabila to step down. Kabila is set to leave office in December when his second term expires, but many fear he may try and extend his stay in power.


This show of unity comes after two days of intense talks near Brussels, bringing together hundreds of members of DR Congo's opposition.

The platform "Rally" formed on Thursday, aims to give more clout to the Congolese people's demands for change, and claims to represent a broad section of them.

Indeed it represents three major political families: the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) led by veteran leader Etienne Tshisekedi; the Dynamic Opposition, and the G7, made up of many stalwarts of the ruling PPRD party, including the former governor of Katanga Moise Katumbi, the most serious challenger to president Joseph Kabila in November's presidential elections.

But it doesn't include the Union for the Congolese nation (UNC) of Vital Kamerhe nor does it have members of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) of Jean-Pierre Bemba.

As for its claims to represent the whole country, not everyone agrees: "I don't think it will unite the Congolese people," Greg Mckenzi, a member of civil society told RFI.

"The Opposition has been talking since 1960, and none of it has produced any results. There's been no progress, up until today," he said.

Too much talk and little action. There have been talks also with the government, that have raised more than a few eyebrows.

Last year, President Kabila called for a "national dialogue" aimed at reaching a wide consenus before any new poll. Etienne Tshisekedi agreed to take part, only on conditions that:

  • Kabila respects the constitution & organizes free & timely elections
  • Releases all political prisoners
  • Allows international monitors to ensure any agreements are fulfilled.

Kabila even brought in a mediator - Togo's former prime minister Edem Kodjo - to facilitate these talks, but to no avail. Numerous politicians and activists argue that Kodjo is too close to the President.

"We wanted to distinguish between the mediation talks led by Kabila from the one we would like to see spearheaded by the international community," Felix Tshisekedi of the UDPS told RFI at the end of the two-day conference near Brussels, as an attempt to silence critics.

"We insist a lot on the necessity of setting up a panel of experts to accompany the mediator in his role," he said.

Accompanied or not, there are those in the opposition who disagree entirely with the current mediation with the government.

"We think that today, the current climate is not conducive to elections or any form of dialogue with Kabila. The only thing we must do is to mobilize our people against Joseph Kabila to rid him from power," Emery Damien Kalwira, the head of the Congolese Transition Council (CCT), told RFI. The CCT did not take part in the Brussels talks.

Leaving the issue of dialogue aside, Belgian researcher, Theodore Trefon, says that the "Rally" has other challenges: "I don't see the link between the opposition now jockeying for power to put pressure on Kabila and how that will really bring about any improved benefits for the Congolese people. It's the opposition talking about power for themselves but there's no discussion of a political agenda," he said.

If doubts remain about the "Rally's" motives, the same goes for Joseph Kabila's endgame. Tensions have been mounting in the DRC in recent months over fears that Kabila will postpone elections to extend his time in office.

Some see his call for national dialogue as a ploy for him to do just that, by exploiting the ambiguity over the opposition's meaning of dialogue.