Firestorm as DR de­lays pres­i­den­tial vote

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

NAIROBI — Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo’s rul­ing coali­tion and other smaller par­ties have agreed to de­lay next month’s elec­tions to April 2018 — a move that will anger op­po­si­tion groups who have ac­cused the pres­i­dent of try­ing to cling onto power.

Congo’s main op­po­si­tion bloc was not im­me­di­ately avail­able for com­ment but has al­ready called a gen­eral strike for Wed­nes­day to press Pres­i­dent Joseph Ka­bila to leave at the end of his man­date in De­cem­ber.

Last month dozens died in two days of protests in the cap­i­tal Kin­shasa against planned de­lays to the vote due to what au­thor­i­ties said were lo­gis­ti­cal prob­lems reg­is­ter­ing mil­lions of vot­ers in the mas­sive and im­pov­er­ished coun­try. .

Par­ties agreed in talks on Satur­day to give more time for voter reg­is­tra­tion and keep Ka­bila in of­fice un­til the de­layed vote, said one or­ga­ni­za­tion in the dis­cus­sions, the Union for the Con­golese Na­tion. Del­e­gates at the talks would likely rat­ify the de­ci­sion on Mon­day, the state­ment said.

UNC pres­i­dent Vi­tal Kamerhe is widely ex­pected to be­come prime min­is­ter as part of the power-shar­ing govern­ment ush­ered in un­der the talks. Ka­bila, who came to power in 2001 when his fa­ther was as­sas­si­nated, says he will re­spect the con­sti­tu­tion but has yet to rule out at­tempt­ing to change the coun­try’s laws to en­able him to run for a fresh term.

The pres­i­dents of neigh­bor­ing Rwanda and Congo Repub­lic changed their con­sti­tu­tions last year to al­low them­selves to stand for a third term, and Ka­bila’s op­po­nents say they fear he will do the same.

Hun­dreds of peo­ple have also died since last year in neigh­bor­ing Bu­rundi af­ter its pres­i­dent Pierre Nku­run­z­iza pur­sued and won a third term in of­fice that his op­po­nents say is un­con­sti­tu­tional.

The head of the U.N. mis­sion in Congo warned last week that the po­lit­i­cal im­passe poses an “ex­treme risk” to sta­bil­ity. Mil­lions died in re­gional con­flicts be­tween 1996 and 2003 and Congo has never ex­pe­ri­ence a peace­ful tran­si­tion of power. — Reuters

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