The situation in DR Congo, but also in the Central African Republic, Lesotho and South Sudan is discussed today in Luanda at a summit meeting of the presidents of Angola, Congo, Gabon, DR Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.
The meeting in the Angolan capital precedes the 38th SADC summit by three days and will also be attended by the chairman of the African Union commission, Moussa Faki Mahama from Chad.
The meeting will take place on Friday and Saturday in the Namibian capital Windhoek, and will mark the transition of the SADC rotating presidency from South Africa to the country hosting the summit.
The main theme of the discussions in Luanda will be the current situation in DR Congo, where recently President Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001, announced that he will not be running in the December 23 elections. The Constitution prohibited him from running, but he designated a former minister, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadiry, as his party candidate. In addition to Shadiry, three prominent opposition leaders have presented themselves as candidates. Among them is one of Kabila's vice-presidents (2003-2006), Jean-Pierre Bemba, recently acquitted of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court of Hague.
The presidential elections in the DR Congo were initially marked for 2016 but, in January 2015, a law was approved to allow Kabila to remain in power. Since then, the situation in this country has been marked by recurrent cycles of violence and by attempts to reach an agreement between the president and the opposition. More than two hundred people have already lost their lives as a result of the protests that began in 2015.
On the other hand, while Bemba was able to return to the country and be a candidate, another opposition figure, Moise Katumbi, governor of Catanga province between 2007 and 2015, who is in exile in Zambia, was barred from entering the Democratic Republic of Congo. In addition to the political crisis, the country experienced armed rebellions in the provinces of North and South Kivu and is confronted with an outbreak of Ebola. More than 20 cases have already been confirmed.
Joseph Kabila was in Luanda earlier this month and meet with President João Lourenço. He did not make any statement about the situation in his country.
Speaking to the press last week, Angola's foreign minister, Manuel Augusto, noted that the meeting in Luanda aims to find "African solutions to African problems" and to agree on common positions regarding the situation in DR Congo and on the crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR) and Lesotho. These situations are of particular interest to Angola, since the country is presently head of SADC's Defense and Security Commission. The RCA has been in permanent turmoil since 2013, a situation that intensified in 2016 and 2017, and a United Nations mission (MINUSCA) is in the field with a mandate until the end of 2018. This has not prevented Séléka and anti-balaka militias from operating, however, and this has caused "many regional concerns," the Angolan minister said. Regional leaders also worry about the situation in Lesotho, where a crisis that arose in 2014 is worsening and taking violent contours. SADC has a military mission on site.
Lesotho, stressed Manuel Augusto, has not put into practice the "20 proposed measures for the country's return to institutional normality" and something must be done in that direction.
The peace agreement in South Sudan between President Salva Kiir and his former vice-president Riek Machar and other opposition figures will also be addressed. Independent since 2011, South Sudan has been living a civil war since 2013, which has caused thousands of deaths and more than two million refugees in neighboring countries.
The agreement was signed earlier this month and foresees a redistribution of political power, the formation of a national unity government after an eight-month ceasefire, the reintegration of Riek Machar as vice president and the unification of all militias, among other aspects. The agreement, signed in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, from which South Sudan gained independence after nearly 30 years of armed struggle, was considered "unrealistic" by the United States, United Kingdom and Norway, the "troika" accompanying this crisis.