Thursday, September 14, 2006

Kabila & Bemba Meet While Supreme Court Rules October 29 Run-Off Date Unconstitutional

Kabila and Bemba finally met on Wednesday, September 13 during a meeting of the head of state and the four vice presidents. Both men were escorted to the meeting by United Nations troops. The two met alone for two hours after the meeting of the larger group. No proclamations or statements were issued by representatives of either camp. The meeting came in the wake of a flurry of diplomatic efforts by the South Africa, The European Union and Great Britain. The meeting is yet another step in the direction of calming tensions between the two camps but there is a long way to go to arrive at a point where the Congolese people can be assured of a peaceful run-off and acceptance by either party of the run-off election results.

On another note, the Supreme Court ruled that the October 29th date set by the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) was unconstitutional. According to article 71 of the Congolese constitution the run off elections are supposed to take place 15 days after the announcement of the final/official results of the first round of elections. However, the constitution is silent on the exact date that the announcement of the first round of elections ought to take place. In fact, the Supreme Court has yet to announce the official results of the July 30th elections. Preliminary results had Kabila at 45% (5% short of the 50% needed to win an outright majority) and 20% for Bemba, which triggered the run-off.

The CEI argues that in light of the logistical challenges posed by organizing elections in the Congo, there is no way that a second round of elections can be organized in 15 days. The CEI submitted its case or justification for the October 29 calendar date on September 5, 2006. The Supreme Court has yet to rule on the CEI's case. Nonetheless, Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling complicates the political environment and adds another element of uncertainty in an already tenuous climate.

However, we must remember that we are talking about the Congo which for all intents and purposes is currently under defacto international tutelage and/or trusteeship. If the Committee to Accompany the Transition (CIAT in French) wants the elections held on October 29, it will be held on that date irrespective of what the Congolese constitution says. It is the representative countries of the CIAT mainly from the European Union who are paying the $46 million for the second round of elections, therefore in the end they call the shots even though it may not be publicly stated.

Note: Picture by Kevin Jordan of MONUC


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