Belgium offers to assist in drafting of constitution

The Belgian Parliament has offered its assistance to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in its drafting of a future national constitution, Belgian Senate President Armand De Decker told IRIN on Wednesday in Brussels, following a four-day mission to the Congolese capital, Kinshasa.

"The Congolese Senate has an historical role to not only serve as a forum for arbitration outside of all political tendencies inside this huge country, but also to pre-draft a future constitution," De Decker said. "That's why I traveled to DRC with two other colleagues at the invitation of Congolese Senate President Marini Bodho, to propose our assistance."

De Decker said the assistance could include an exchange of national counterparts specialized in constitutional law.

During the mission, from 12 to 15 December, De Decker also met DRC President Joseph Kabila.

"He told me that he wants elections to be held before the end of 2005, and that there were no major obstacles to reaching that goal," De Decker said.

He added that while there were "many pretexts" to delay the elections, such as the national census, the organization of elections was primarily a question of political will.

"Current international support will not last forever if too much time is lost," he warned.

According to IRIN sources, local elections could be held in April 2005, parliamentary elections in July 2005 and presidential elections in September 2005; other sources suggest that local and legislative elections could be organized on the same day.

De Decker also said that among the Congolese senators, he found that "minds were really open on the question of nationality", including Congolese Tutsis, known as Banyamulenge, as well as Europeans who had resided in the DRC for a long period.