JOHANNESBURG – President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has managed to extend his political mandate, which expired on Tuesday, following a last minute deal brokered by Congolese politicians.
An unexpected breakthrough on Friday saw politicians agree in principle to a deal which will see Kabila only leave office by the end of 2017, following days of protests and political unrest during which dozens of protesters were killed in clashes with security forces and hundreds more arrested.
In return, the constitution cannot be changed to let Kabila stand for a third term, a prime minister will be named from the main opposition bloc and its leader Etienne Tshisekedi will oversee the implementation of the deal, Martin Fayulu and Jose Endundo told Reuters.
“Kabila stays for one year,” Fayulu said. “He will not try to stand for a new term.”
However, a government spokesperson refused to provide details on the specifics of the deal which requires final approval by all the delegates at negotiations mediated by the DRC’s Catholic Church.
Furthermore, Kabila has refused to commit publicly to honouring the deal not to change the constitution to allow him to stay in office for a third term, leading to fears he will again try to extend his term in power come the end of 2017.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports that political tensions have risen throughout the DRC, as political and religious leaders, activists, students, and others have spoken out against proposed changes to Congo’s constitution and other proposals that would allow President Joseph Kabila to stay in power for longer than the two consecutive terms currently permitted.
Government authorities have sought to silence dissent with threats, violence, and arbitrary arrests.
In eastern Congo, dozens of armed groups remain active. Many of their commanders lead forces that have been responsible for numerous war crimes for which few have been held accountable.
Congolese army soldiers have also been responsible for abuses against the civilian population they are meant to protect.