Congo’s Kabila faces test on streets as his term expires

Simmering public anger and fears of violent protests as the term of Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila nears the end without an election.

KINSHASA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO (DECEMBER 18, 2916) (REUTERS – A priest at a Kinshasa church in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has asked his congregation to pray on Sunday (December 18) for a peaceful resolution to deadlocked talks on the country’s president’s future.

“We ask the grace of God be upon the mediators who are trying to achieve a mission which seems to be a mission impossible,” said priest Jean Ilunga.

President Joseph Kabila’s term and mandate expires on Monday (December 19), and elections have yet to be called.

The opposition accuses Kabila of trying to cling to power.

The Congolese Catholic Church (CENCO) have been mediating political negotiations between Kabila’s political alliance and the Congolese opposition over the election day and Kabila’s mandate.

On Saturday (December 17) the bishops in the talks broke off without an agreement saying they would resume on Wednesday (December 21) once the Catholic bishops returned from a trip to Rome to meet the pope.

Political figures leaving the talks on Saturday said they were concerned and some appealed for calm.

“The most pressing for us is to find a common message that can deliver peace of mind so that nothing bad happens on Monday (December 19 when Kabila’s mandate ends) and that no Congolese either in the provinces or in any of Kinshasa’s communes be killed or die because of political differences. That is extremely important,” said Azarias Ruberwa, one of the members of the dialogue.

The DRC’s main opposition bloc said on Saturday it was not planning a march against Kabila on Monday.

That decision may defuse anticipated protests.

Kinshasa has been tense all week.

Many have been stocking up on basic food stuff, the police have set up roadblocks, the UN have reinforced their troops and the airport’s departure lounge on Sunday was packed with people after embassies advised their nationals not to leave.

At least 50 people were killed when an anti-government protest turned violent in Kinshasa last September and residents fear a repeat on Monday (December 19).

“What we are worried about is that we don’t want any more blood on the streets of Kinshasa. Enough is enough,” said one resident, Kayenga Zizu.

Congo has not seen a peaceful transfer of power since independence in 1960 and world powers fear protests, particularly in the sprawling capital of Kinshasa, could spark violence in the chronically unstable central African giant.