Sol­diers de­ploy across Congo as pres­i­dent re­fuses to leave

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD - BY ME­LANIE GOUBY

KINSHASA, CONGO | Mil­i­tary and po­lice de­ployed across Congo’s cap­i­tal on Mon­day amid fears of un­rest on the last of­fi­cial day of Pres­i­dent Joseph Ka­bila’s man­date. He in­tends to stay on af­ter the mid­night dead­line, said a pres­i­den­tial ad­viser, who also ad­vised there is “no pos­si­bil­ity” of elec­tions in 2017.

At least 41 op­po­si­tion mem­bers and ac­tivists were ar­rested in the east­ern city of Goma on Mon­day, ac­cord­ing to Hu­man Rights Watch and lo­cal res­i­dents.

Anger has been grow­ing since it be­came clear that the vote once set for Novem­ber would not take place on time. Po­lit­i­cal talks be­tween the rul­ing party and the op­po­si­tion, me­di­ated by the Catholic Church, stalled over the week­end and are set to re­sume Wed­nes­day.

Con­golese of­fi­cials have said more time is needed to up­date voter rolls and make other prepa­ra­tions.

“There is no pos­si­bil­ity, given the im­mense lo­gis­ti­cal and fi­nan­cial chal­lenges we face to­day, that the elec­tions will hap­pen for at the very least a year,” Barn­abe Kikaya Bin Karubi, the pres­i­dent’s diplo­matic ad­viser, told re­porters Mon­day. Mr. Karubi said it was un­con­sti­tu­tional to de­mand that Pres­i­dent Ka­bila leave of­fice at mid­night.

“The con­sti­tu­tion clearly states that the pres­i­dent re­mains in his po­si­tion un­til his suc­ces­sor is elected by the peo­ple of the Congo, not by a loud and in­sis­tent mob,” he said.

A court has ruled that Ka­bila can re­main in power un­til new elec­tions.

The rul­ing party has sug­gested hold­ing the vote in April 2018. Op­po­si­tion leader Felix Tshisekedi has said new elec­tions must be held in 2017.

The op­po­si­tion has not of­fi­cially called for demon­stra­tions, though many ob­servers ex­pect peo­ple to take to the streets as they did in Septem­ber, when the elec­toral com­mis­sion failed to sched­ule the elec­tion. Hu­man rights groups say more than 50 peo­ple died.

“We can’t demon­strate be­cause of the po­lice. They are pa­trolling and search­ing peo­ple,” Jean Eva, an un­em­ployed young man, said Mon­day. “Tonight it’s the end of Ka­bila’s man­date. At mid­night we are go­ing to whistle to mark the end of the match. We’ll whistle from our homes, in front of our doors. Lots of peo­ple got whis­tles.”

At the Univer­sity of Kinshasa, the mil­i­tary was de­ployed around an exit lead­ing to the town cen­ter, but crowds still gath­ered.

In Goma ac­tivists tried to build bar­ri­cades but were quickly dis­persed by po­lice.

“We’ll keep try­ing to protest with the means we have, but the mil­i­tary de­ploy­ment is truly im­pos­ing,” said Luc Nku­l­ula, an ac­tivist with pro-democ­racy group Lucha.

Po­lice spokesman and North Kivu deputy com­mis­sioner Col. Van Ka­songo con­firmed the ar­rests, say­ing the pro­test­ers “were dis­turb­ing pub­lic or­der and had thrown stones at po­lice ve­hi­cles.”

Separately, more than a dozen op­po­si­tion mem­bers have been ar­rested in the last few days in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, ac­cord­ing to Hu­man Rights Watch. Two ac­tivists went miss­ing Fri­day, the or­ga­ni­za­tion said.

This sprawl­ing cen­tral African na­tion, which has suf­fered decades of dic­ta­tor­ship and back-to-back civil wars, has never had a peace­ful trans­fer of power. Mr. Ka­bila came to power in 2001 af­ter the as­sas­si­na­tion of his fa­ther.

Mon­day marks the end of Mr. Ka­bila’s sec­ond elected five-year term. Though he is barred by the con­sti­tu­tion from run­ning for a third term, the con­sti­tu­tional court in May said the pres­i­dent should re­main in of­fice un­til a new leader is elected. Some ar­gue the 45-year-old pres­i­dent dare not leave as it would ex­pose him and his top aides to cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tions that he can quash while still in power.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.