Troops de­ploy in tense DR Congo

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Peo­ple stayed home across Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo yes­ter­day, leav­ing troops to pa­trol ghost cities as ten­sion peaked hours be­fore Pres­i­dent Joseph Ka­bila’s man­date ends, but with no elec­tion in sight. Ka­bila’s se­cond term ex­pires at mid­day on De­cem­ber 20, but he has shown no sign of step­ping down and talks on a pre-elec­tion tran­si­tion have failed, spark­ing fears of fresh po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence in the min­eral-rich but un­sta­ble na­tion.

Nor­mally teem­ing Kinshasa, the megac­ity cap­i­tal of 10 mil­lion peo­ple, was a shadow of it­self yes­ter­day, with barely any traf­fic on the main roads, public trans­port at a min­i­mum, and sol­diers and po­lice out­num­ber­ing passers-by. Shops were shut­tered in the main square and there were tense scenes at Kinshasa Uni­ver­sity, where dozens of po­lice and troops held back hun­dreds of stu­dents, AFP jour­nal­ists said.

In the volatile east, torn by two decades of armed con­flict, five rebels, a South African peace­keeper and a Con­golese po­lice of­fi­cer were killed when mili­tia fight­ers at­tacked sev­eral build­ings in Butembo, in­clud­ing the pri­son. Ka­bila, who has been in power for 15 years, is con­sti­tu­tion­ally barred from seek­ing a third term but un­der a re­cent con­sti­tu­tional court or­der he may stay on un­til a suc­ces­sor is cho­sen.

The rul­ing party and some op­po­si­tion lead­ers have agreed to sched­ule an elec­tion in April 2018, leav­ing Ka­bila in of­fice un­til the vote. But the main op­po­si­tion bloc re­jects this. In Kinshasa, jour­nal­ists were pre­vented from en­ter­ing the uni­ver­sity grounds by se­cu­rity forces and irate stu­dents, but stu­dents reached by tele­phone said they had been plan­ning “to march peace­fully” to par­lia­ment to de­mand Ka­bila step down. Se­cu­rity was also tight in the se­cond city, Lubum­bashi, in the south­east, with most shops closed and very lit­tle traf­fic. So­cial net­works have been cut or fil­tered since mid­night Sun­day on or­ders from the au­thor­i­ties and po­lice at the week­end banned gath­er­ings of more than 10 peo­ple.

Talks to re­sume

An AFP jour­nal­ist saw po­lice dis­perse a group of eight young peo­ple chat­ting on the street in Goma, in the east, where busi­ness too was at a stand­still. In a last-ditch bid to achieve a peace­ful trans­fer of power, talks took place last week be­tween the rul­ing party and fringe op­po­si­tion groups al­lied against a main­stream op­po­si­tion coali­tion led by 84-year-old Eti­enne Tshisekedi. But de­spite more than a week of me­di­a­tion they broke up on Satur­day, with no progress on the main is­sues that di­vide the two sides.

Ne­go­ti­a­tions are due to re­sume on Wed­nes­day when Catholic bish­ops act­ing as me­di­a­tors re­turn from a long-planned trip to Rome-a day af­ter the 45-year-old Ka­bila’s term ends. A demo­cratic han­dover would break ground for Congo’s 70 mil­lion peo­ple who since in­de­pen­dence from Bel­gium in 1960 have never wit­nessed po­lit­i­cal change at the bal­lot box.

And in the last few years hun­dreds of peo­ple have died in po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence in the cap­i­tal, Kinshasa, in­clud­ing 53 in an­tiKa­bila protests in Septem­ber. The pres­i­dent has been in power since his fa­ther Lau­rent Ka­bila was as­sas­si­nated in 2001. He was elected in 2006, and again in 2011, in a poll the op­po­si­tion de­cried as rigged. Tshisekedi’s op­po­si­tion group­ing has threat­ened to bring peo­ple into the streets from Mon­day if the talks failed. — AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.