DR Congo tense ahead of key talks on Ka­bila’s fu­ture

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

KIN­SHASA: Ten­sion ran high in DR Congo yes­ter­day, with po­lice out in force in the cap­i­tal and ac­tiv­ity slowed fol­low­ing deadly protests against Pres­i­dent Joseph Ka­bila’s re­fusal to step down as his man­date ends.

Life very slowly re­sumed in Kin­shasa, a megac­ity of 10 mil­lion, with few buses and taxis on the streets at morn­ing rush-hour, trad­ing slack at the market, and troops and po­lice posted at ma­jor cross­roads. A day af­ter at least 11 peo­ple died in street protests, eyes were on talks due to re­sume Wednesday that were launched by the Catholic Church in hopes of find­ing a peace­ful way out of the po­lit­i­cal cri­sis.

Ka­bila’s sec­ond and fi­nal term in of­fice ran out Tues­day with no elec­tion on the near hori­zon and no sign of plans to leave power any time soon. So far the main­stream op­po­si­tion has called for “peace­ful re­sis­tance” from Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo’s 70 mil­lion peo­ple in hopes of clinch­ing a deal at the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble.

But gun­fire rang out across the vast and trou­bled nation as protests erupted Tues­day. Of­fi­cials said nine peo­ple had died in Kin­shasa and two in the coun­try’s sec­ond-largest city, Lubum­bashi.

Rights group Hu­man Rights Watch said at least 26 pro­test­ers had been killed coun­try­wide. A day af­ter the UN’s large DR Congo mis­sion, MONUSCO, voiced alarm over the de­ten­tion of 113 op­po­si­tion lead­ers and civil so­ci­ety ac­tivists in just four days, there were fresh ar­rests in eastern Goma. In what Ka­bila’s op­po­nents dubbed “a provo­ca­tion”, a new gov­ern­ment was an­nounced overnight Mon­day to Tues­day, headed by Samy Badibanga. The freshly ap­pointed cabi­net is part of an Oc­to­ber deal struck be­tween the rul­ing party and tiny fringe op­po­si­tion groups en­abling Ka­bila to re­main in of­fice pend­ing elec­tions in April 2018.

‘Peace­ful re­sis­tance’

How­ever, the main op­po­si­tion bloc headed by 84-year-old Eti­enne Tshisekedi re­jects the plan. It wants elec­tions next year-along with a pledge that Ka­bila will not stand. Ka­bila, 45, who has ruled since 2001, is con­sti­tu­tion­ally barred from seek­ing a third term but un­der a con­tro­ver­sial re­cent con­sti­tu­tional court or­der, he may stay on un­til a suc­ces­sor is cho­sen. In a YouTube video, Tshisekedi launched “a solemn ap­peal to the Con­golese peo­ple to no longer recog­nise the author­ity of Mr. Joseph Ka­bila, to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to no longer deal with Joseph Ka­bila in the name of the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo”.

He urged peo­ple “to peace­fully re­sist the coup d’etat”. The mes­sage was not avail­able in DR Congo where author­i­ties have since Sun­day im­posed strict con­trols on so­cial me­dia net­works.

Tshisekedi said he hoped to con­tinue the talks launched by the Catholic Church last week. In Rome, Pope Fran­cis ap­pealed to the peo­ple of DR Congo to be “ar­ti­sans of peace” at his weekly au­di­ence. “May those who are in po­si­tions of po­lit­i­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity lis­ten to the voice of their con­science, learn to see the cruel suf­fer­ings of their fel­low cit­i­zens and have at heart the com­mon good.”

DR Congo has never wit­nessed a demo­cratic trans­fer of power fol­low­ing polls since in­de­pen­dence from Bel­gium in 1960. The pres­i­dent has been in of­fice since his fa­ther Lau­rent Ka­bila’s as­sas­si­na­tion in 2001. He was elected in 2006, and again in 2011. Some two decades ago, the coun­try col­lapsed into the dead­li­est con­flict in mod­ern African his­tory. Its two wars in the late 1990s and early 2000s dragged in at least six African armies and left more than three mil­lion dead. — AFP

KIN­SHASA: A man stands by a street stall as an­other one walks past him yes­ter­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.