Tens of Thousands Call for Kabila to Step Down in Congo Capitalby
Opposition leader demands President call election as term ends
Congo hasn’t ever seen a democratic transfer of power
Opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi called on Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila to step down at a rally of tens of thousands of demonstrators Sunday, in a sign that political tensions may be coming to a head.
“September 19 is the first red line that cannot be crossed,” Tshisekedi told the crowd waving opposition flags and chanting anti-Kabila slogans in the capital Kinshasa. “The electorate must be called for the presidential election,” he said.
The Central African country has never had a democratic transfer of power. Kabila became president in 2001 following the assassination of his father, former President Laurent-Desire Kabila, during a violent civil war that left millions dead and destabilized many of the Congo’s nine neighboring countries, which include Angola, Zambia and Rwanda.
He won elections in 2006 and 2011 but is prevented from running for a third term by the country’s constitution, and is required to call an election 90 days before the end of his second mandate on Dec. 19. Kabila’s government, however, has said that technical and financial constraints make it impossible to hold the vote on time and has called for a national political dialogue, which opposition leaders, including Tshisekedi, continue
Tshisekedi, 83, returned to Congo on July 27 for the first time in over two years to be greeted by tens of thousands of supporters. Two days later the ruling party held a counter-demonstration in support of Kabila, who also remains capable of drawing large crowds.
In January 2015, protests against an attempt by the government to change the electoral law left at least 36 dead as opposition supporters clashed with security forces. The United Nations is concerned that the current political impasse will also lead to violence.
Tshisekedi said the opposition will announce a new series of protests to block efforts to “undermine the constitution” and ensure Kabila is hands over power in December.