afrol News, 18 May - Congolese President Kabila yesterday announced a law enabling political parties to operate again. The ban on political parties has been a major obstruction to start the political talks and reconciliation between the government, opposition groups and armed rebels, as foreseen in the Lusaka peace agreement.
The ban on political parties and meetings has existed since the President's father's rebel troops took Kinshasa exactly four years ago. President Joseph Kabila at a church mass said all those parties that had been operatiing under former President Mobuto Sese Seko, would be able to resume their work without interference. As many as 450 parties existed.
Also new parties might register under the new law, provided they have founder members from all 11 provinces. However, all parties must support the unity and sovereignty of the nation, must not be based on tribalism, must be independent of all foreign powers, and must accept the principles of democratic pluralism and non-violence in politics. This might limit the acceptence of several rebel movements, relying on foreign support.
As Joseph Kabila was sworn in as Congolese President on 25 January this year, he said he was not willing to restore democracy in the country "as long as foreign troops occupied parts of his territory". Later, however, he opened for the return to the peace process that had been on ice for almost two years, and foreign troops have started their withdrawal from Congo. A major demand lately has been to return to democracy and starting of the inter-Congolese debate to achieve lasting peace.
A United Nations delegation dealing with the war in Congo Kinshasa (DRC), who's visit in Kinshasa coincidenced with the introduction of the law, hailed Kabila's announcement, calling it "extremely good news."
This opens for the UN demands for talks between the government, opposition groups and rebels overseen by former Botswanan President Ketumile Masire, the official facilitator of the inter-Congolese dialogue. Masire's mission so far has been futile, and the withdrawals of troops by foreign powers in Congo have not been followed up by talks between the Congolese warring parties.
On announcing the new law, President Joseph Kabila said, "By promulgating this law, the Congolese people and I myself expect Congolese politicians to exercise their political activities with discipline, respect for the laws and for their republic."
The UN Security Council delegation currently on a mission to the Great Lakes region of Africa welcomed immediately President Kabila's announcement. "This sets the stage for positive developments in the days to come," France's UN Ambassador Jean David Levitte, who is leading the mission, told journalists.
Another member of the delegation, Britain's UN Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock, said that the lifting of the ban gives "momentum to what we are doing in pushing with President Masire the internal dialogue process together with the disengagement and withdrawal process. For us it is extremely good news."
Earlier yesterday, the delegation had met with facilitator Ketumile Masire. According to a UN spokesman, during that meeting Ambassador Levitte warned that movement on troop withdrawals without parallel progress in the national dialogue could lead to a dangerous situation where the national armed parties might use force - and not political dialogue - to solve problems.
Masire himself later told reporters, "We have the feeling that the mood has changed in the last few months in the DR Congo and in the region, and there is a window of opportunity for peace." The former Botswanan President's role in the peace process was disputed under late Congolese President Laurent Kabila, Joseph Kabila's father, and he has not been able to act on the facilitator role given him.
Sources: Based on UN sources and afrol archives