Thou­sands join pro-govt rally as DRC poll row mounts

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

KINSHASA — Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple ral­lied in Kinshasa on Fri­day in sup­port of Con­golese Pres­i­dent Joseph Ka­bila just two days af­ter his lead­ing op­po­nent re­turned home to a mas­sive welcome.

Po­lit­i­cal ten­sion is high in the coun­try as the op­po­si­tion fears that Ka­bila, whose man­date ends in De­cem­ber, will de­lay elec­tions in a bid to cling on to power.

“We came here to af­firm our sup­port for Joseph Ka­bila,” Au­bin Mi­naku, sec­re­tary gen­eral of the rul­ing ma­jor­ity and pres­i­dent of the na­tional assem­bly, told a crowd es­ti­mated at over 40,000, an AFP cor­re­spon­dent at the scene re­ported.

“Ka­bila, stay as long as pos­si­ble,” the crowd shouted, al­lud­ing to the po­lit­i­cal con­tro­versy rag­ing in Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo.

In power since his fa­ther’s as­sas­si­na­tion in 2001, Ka­bila is sus­pected by op­po­nents of eyeing a third term which would in­volve chang­ing the con­sti­tu­tion’s twoterm limit.

Op­po­si­tion protests erupted af­ter the Con­sti­tu­tional Court ruled in May that Ka­bila could re­main in of­fice in a care­taker ca­pac­ity be­yond the end of his cur­rent man­date end­ing De­cem­ber.

But now the DRC’s op­po­si­tion has achieved the rare feat of ral­ly­ing be­hind a sin­gle fig­ure, the im­mensely pop­u­lar Eti­enne Tshisekedi who re­turned home Wed­nes­day from Bel­gium where he had been mede­vaced in 2014.

The 83-year-old first emerged as a lead­ing op­po­si­tion voice as far back as the 1980s when he be­came a critic of former dic­ta­tor Mobutu Sese Seko.

In the DRC’s last pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in 2011, he ran sec­ond to Ka­bila, but con­tended he was de­nied vic­tory by mas­sive fraud.

Thou­sands of sup­port­ers flanked his mo­tor­cade as it crawled its way into the city of 11 mil­lion peo­ple on Wed­nes­day. An op­po­si­tion rally was sched­uled for yes­ter­day. — AFP

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