Kabila to stay on, says DR Congo goverment

Congolese President Joseph Kabila will remain in office tomorrow, his top diplomat says, hours before his mandate is due to run out.

KINSHASA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (DECEMBER 19, 2016) (REUTERS) – The Congolese President’s chief diplomat, Barnabe Kikaya, said on Monday (December 19) there was no scenario in which Joseph Kabila would step down at the end of his mandate at midnight.

Kikaya said a new president must be elected before Kabila may step down. Elections are not due until next year.

“Tomorrow the president will be the president of the republic, he will remain the president of the republic because the constitution demands it. Doing otherwise would violate the constitution,” Kikaya told a news conference in the capital Kinshasa.

Hundreds of anti-Kabila demonstrators defied a ban on marches against the president’s plans to stay in office past the end of his term and gathered in Kinshasa amid a heavy military presence.

They demanded the president step down and organise elections that were due this month.

At least 80 protesters were arrested in the Goma, eastern DRC, the U.N. human rights office in Congo said, mostly activists who were simply wearing red shirts, an opposition colour. Police said nine opposition demonstrators were detained.

The government and elections officials have blamed logistical and financial problems for the delay in the vote, currently scheduled for April 2018.

Some opposition leaders agreed Kabila can remain in office until then. The constitutional court has also ruled that Kabila, leader since his father was assassinated in 2001, can stay on.

But the main opposition bloc rejects the deal as a ploy, though it said it would not call protests.

Diplomats fear any escalation could trigger a conflict like the 1996 to 2003 wars that killed millions.