Congolese Government Adopts Draft Constitution

Panafrican News Agency, 16 November 2000

Brazzaville—The Congolese government Wednesday evening adopted a draft constitution that envisages a presidential type of regime, if endorsed in a referendum to be held in 2001.

Briefing journalists about the decision after a cabinet meeting, communications minister Francois Ibovi said that the government had made several amendments to the original text prepared by a committee of experts established in 1999.

He added that the government had modified the preamble and some articles with the sole aim of promoting national reconciliation and preventing an increase in the number of institutions.

The draft constitution, he said, will mark the effective return of democracy in Congo, after three years of transition under Gen. Denis Sassou Nguesso.

The draft envisages a presidential system under which the head of state is elected for seven years, renewable only once. According to the draft, the president would be the sole holder of executive power as head of the government with powers to appoint and dismiss ministers.

The text institutes a bi-cameral Parliament (National Assembly and Senate). It stipulates that the President of the Republic cannot dissolve the National Assembly, which in return cannot relieve him of his presidential duties.

The draft proclaims the independence and freedom of the judiciary and provides for the creation of the Council for Freedom and Communications, the Constitutional Court, the National Audit and Budget Regulation Office, as well as an Economic and Social Council.

The draft will be submitted to a national debate, whose objective, according to President Sassou Nguesso, would be to define the future democratic institutions of Congo.

However, several independent or opposition political parties are challenging the draft constitution, saying it could lead to the entrenchment of a republican monarchy in Congo.

Meanwhile, the opposition parties have declared that only the mediator in the Congolese conflict, Gabonese President Omar Bongo, was entitled to fix the agenda, the venue and date of the inter-Congolese talks to find a lasting political solution to the armed violence that brought bloodshed to Congo in 1993, 1997 and 1998.

The talks have been delayed by differences in opinion between the opposition and the government on the content and objectives of the talks, which were envisaged when the government forces and armed groups backing the exiled President Pascal Lissouba signed cease-fire agreements in December 1999.