Dispatches from the Field: Meetings in Luanda
On Monday 14 November, the Council concluded its DRC-focused trip to Africa with a day of meetings in Luanda, Angola. The Council included Luanda as part of its itinerary in order to hold talks with José Eduardo dos Santos, President of Angola, in his capacity as President of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region. A meeting with the President of the National Assembly and an encounter with the members of the diplomatic corps accredited in Angola was also on the programme. The objective of the Angola leg of the mission was to hear the perspectives of the political and diplomatic actors in the region on the crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Both the President of the Republic and of the National Assembly had to travel abroad on very short notice, which resulted in their deputies, Manuel Domingos Vicente and Joana Lina, respectively, meeting instead with the Council delegation.
The meeting at the National Assembly, which lasted for about 90 minutes and included, in addition to its deputy president, several other members of the parliament, provided an opportunity for an exchange of views on the DRC crisis. The Angolan parliamentarians were particularly eager to know whether the Council delegation had met with members of the different opposition sectors, including those that did not sign on to the national dialogue. Council members informed their Angolan interlocutors that, indeed, meeting with the parties reluctant to join the dialogue was one of the key objectives of their visit to Kinshasa. They also emphasised that they had urged the government side to undertake confidence-building measures. Council members were curious about how closely the DRC crisis was being followed by members of the different parliamentarians’ constituencies; they were told that the Angolan population was keenly aware of the crisis in the neighbouring country and concerned about its possible implications for Angola, such as an influx of refugees, should the crisis deepen.
The 40-minute meeting with the Vice President, together with the country’s Foreign Minister, Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti, attended, included an exchange of views about the situation in the DRC between the co-leads, Angola and France, and the Angolan host, with some Council members making additional comments. During the meeting, the Vice President read a statement on the situation in the DRC issued by the Angolan government the previous day. The document stressed the close attention with which the Angolan government follows the developments in the DRC, especially given the close historical and cultural ties between the two countries and the numerous aspects of their cooperation. Peace and stability in the DRC, the document said, needed to be preserved as they were crucial for the peace and security of the whole region. The Angolan government, the document continued, firmly believes that political differences need to be resolved through dialogue and not through violence or any other illegitimate means, reaffirms its support for a peaceful solution to the conflict between the government and the opposition, and appeals to the parties to continue the dialogue.
The substantive programme of the visit ended with a briefing for the diplomatic community accredited in Angola. Nearly a hundred foreign diplomats participated, indicating the high level of interest in and concern about the situation in the DRC. Members of the Council delegation provided an overview of their visit to the DRC, stressing in particular the Council’s united messaging about the need to find a consensus regarding the electoral calendar, the need for confidence-building measures on the part of the government, and the importance of a peaceful transition from the Kabila government after a fully democratic and fair election. They spoke of the crucial importance of the next few weeks for the future of the DRC, and signaled that upon their return to New York, the Council was planning to work on a draft presidential statement that would present a common vision of how to encourage the process. They emphasised that they would work closely with the region, in particular Angola, in their approach to the DRC. They also stressed the need to act quickly, before the situation deteriorates further.