Congo Opposition Parties Begin Nationwide Strike Over Vote

  • At least 50 people died in similar protests last month
  • Opposition wants Kabila to leave when term ends in December

Opposition supporters in the Democratic Republic of Congo held a nationwide strike Wednesday, a month after more than 50 people were killed in violent demonstrations demanding President Joseph Kabila leave power.

Streets often clogged with traffic were quiet across the capital, Kinshasa, with few vehicles moving. Street traders continued their business, but most shops were closed.

“We want to honor those that have fallen on Sept. 19 for the cause of the motherland,” said Patrick Wata, the director of a human-rights organization based in the central market in Kinshasa, where at least two thirds of the stalls were closed. “It is our responsibility to denounce those who do not want to respect the constitution.”

A presidential election had been scheduled for November, but has been delayed for two years after a political agreement between the ruling party and group of smaller opposition parties, which will run the prime minister’s office in an interim administration headed by Kabila until the vote can be held.

The rest of Congo’s opposition, including the largest party the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, have boycotted the talks and rejected the agreement, calling instead for Congo’s population of 85 million to use popular pressure to force Kabila to open more inclusive negotiations and ultimately step down.

Kabila Pressure

Wednesday’s strike was the third such demonstration this year, as the opposition attempts to maintain pressure on Kabila to step down when his second term ends on Dec. 19. A heavy security presence belied a government fear of the potential for more aggressive protests, though police officers in the capital had little to do.

In the eastern town of Goma, the strike was more disruptive as thousands of people, mostly youth, marched on the office of the governor of North Kivu, singing anti-Kabila songs. They blocked main roads with logs and stones and lighting fires in the main roads before police intervened and fired tear gas to disperse the demonstrators.

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