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DR Congo, protests against President Kabila who refuses to step down

President Kabila’s mandate expired on 19 December but he’s refusing to step down. Clashes and arrests have followed his decision and many now fear an outburst of violence in the country.

Appeals for calm have come from the international community after that at least 11 people died and many were injured in clashes between police and protesters in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 20 December. The situation in the African country got out of hand as President Joseph Kabila, whose second and last mandate expired on 19 December, nominated – unexpectedly – a new government. The decision led the civil society to take to the streets of the country’s major cities to protest.

The protests in the country’s major cities

According to the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), more than 100 people were arrested in the past 24 hours in the capital Kinshasa and in Lubumbashi, the country’s second city and stronghold of opposition leader-in-exile Moïse Katumbi. In a video released on Youtube, historic opposition leader Étienne Tshisekedi has called for a “peaceful resistance” against what he defined a “coup d’etate organised with the help of the Constitutional Court”. In his plea, the 84-year-old leader has accused Kabila of “high treason” for he decided ultra vires to stay in power, violating the Constitution which limits the number of presidential terms to two.

Power cuts to slow down the Internet

In just a few hours the campaign named “Kabila doit partir” (Kabila must leave) has gone viral on social networks. In a bid to prevent people from organising mass protests, authorities are slowing down internet connection through power cuts and blackouts.

Bishops are trying to mediate

President Kaliba’s decision has come in the midst of the Episcopal Conference of the DR Congo, in which bishops are trying to mediate between the parties. The talks, which were suspended on Saturday night, should have favoured a transition involving the outgoing government and the opposition, and should have resumed on Wednesday. The Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UPDS) and the Congolese Rally for Democracy (also known as Rassemblement) are asking for elections to be held by 2017 and to prvent Kabila – governing since 2001 – from running for president again.

The deterioration of the country’s political scenario has alarmed the international community. “An election date should be set as soon as possible, in the interest of civil peace,” said French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. “If no action is taken, the European Union will have to revise its relations with the Democratic Republic of the Congo”.

Elections postponed until 2018

Over the past few months, it became clear that Kabila was unwilling to step down at the end of his mandate. The elections, supposed to be held in October this year, have been postponed until 2018 with the approval of the Constitutional Court. The opposition said this move was aimed at modifying the Constitution for Kabila to run again and win, by eliminating the clause that limits the number of presidential terms to two.

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