John Kerry urge president DR of Congo to respect the “Constitution” not to seek for 3rd term?

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo — Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday urged the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo to respect his nation’s Constitution and not run for another term in 2016.

There has been speculation among the political opposition that President Joseph Kabila, who has been in office since 2001, might seek to have the Constitution amended so that he could run for a third term.

“Clearly, the United States believes that a country is strengthened, that people have respect for their nation and their government, when a constitutional process is properly implemented and upheld by that government.,” Mr. Kerry said.

“He has an opportunity, which he understands, to be able to put the country on a continued path to democracy,” he added.

Mr. Kabila had no comment on Mr. Kerry’s appeal and has not said whether he might seek to have the Constitution changed.

Mr. Kerry, who has promoted the importance of democratic values during a swing through Africa, met Sunday morning with Mr. Kabila at his white marble presidential palace to discuss political and security issues.

One of the chief rebel groups that Mr. Kabila has faced, the M23 militia, ordered its fighters to lay down their arms last year in an agreement signed in December in Nairobi, Kenya, after suffering a series of military setbacks and after Rwanda, under pressure from the United States, curtailed its support for the group.

But some 2,000 members of the group fled to Rwanda and Uganda. Congo wants them to return so that it can either reintegrate them into the government under an amnesty or try some for war crimes. A senior State Department official traveling with Mr. Kerry asserted that Rwanda and Uganda still supported their return but that Mr. Kabila’s government had been slow to carry out the agreement.

The United States also wants Mr. Kabila to pursue the Allied Democratic Forces, a militia that originated in Uganda, and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda — known as the F.D.L.R., for the initials of its French name — whose members have been linked to the genocide in Rwanda.

“The top priority is going after the F.D.L.R.,” said Russell D. Feingold, the American special envoy for the region. “The planning has been done. But President Kabila needs to give the green light to say it is time to take them on militarily.”

Mr. Kerry said after his meeting with Mr. Kabila that the president had a schedule for starting the offensive, but Mr. Kerry declined to discuss it.

Mr. Kabila became president after his father was assassinated. He was elected in 2006 in a vote that Mr. Feingold said was fair. But the Constitution was changed so that Mr. Kabila could run for a second term five years later.

“Unfortunately, in 2011, it was a different story,” Mr. Feingold added. “The international community witnessed an election that lacked the indices of free, fair and transparent elections, and was largely regarded as flawed, as some people in the country claim it was rigged.”

Mr. Kerry said the United States would contribute $30 million to help Congo hold elections. Much of the money will be provided to nongovernmental organizations, but about $2 million will probably be provided to the nation’s electoral commission.

Mr. Kerry arrived here after visiting Ethiopia and South Sudan. He plans to finish his trip with talks in Angola with President José Eduardo dos Santos.

In a generally upbeat speech on Africa policy, which Mr. Kerry delivered in Addis Ababa on Saturday, the secretary said that the conflicts in South Sudan, Central African Republic, Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo were plunging much of the continent into turmoil and casting a cloud over its economic potential.

Mr. Kerry described the recent kidnappings of Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram, a terrorist group, as a “unconscionable crime” and said that the United States would help the government “return these young women to their homes.”

A senior State Department official, however, said later that Mr. Kerry was referring to continuing programs to help Nigeria improve its security organizations and was not suggesting that the United States would play a role in operations to find and free the schoolgirls.

Underscoring the political theme he would take up again here, Mr. Kerry said there would be 15 presidential elections in Africa over the next three years.

“The nations in Africa,” he said, “are strongest when citizens have a say.”Image

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