Congo’s President Says He’ll Hold Power Until 2018 Election

  • Opposition signing accord is ‘only way forward,’ Kabila says
  • Africa’s No. 1 copper producer was due to hold vote this month

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s president urged all the country’s political opposition to sign an agreement that will keep him in power until delayed elections are finally held in April 2018.

The accord signed in October between the ruling party and a small number of opposition groups is the “only way forward,” President Joseph Kabila said Tuesday in a rare public speech, addressing both houses of parliament.

“I cannot allow the Democratic Republic of Congo to be taken hostage by a fringe of the political class,” he said.

Elections were scheduled in Africa’s biggest copper producer for later this month but have been delayed by the country’s electoral commission, which cited financial and logistical constraints. Although Kabila was due to step down following the vote, the October accord and a ruling by the country’s constitutional court would mean the head of state remaining in office until a new president is elected.

Most of Congo’s opposition parties boycotted the talks and continue to call for Kabila to step down. In September, more than 50 people died when security forces clashed with protesters calling for Kabila to leave office in December. More opposition demonstrations are planned.

Under the October agreement, an opposition prime minister will be appointed to form a new government to run the country until the elections are held. Prime Minister Matata Ponyo Mapon and his cabinet stepped down Monday, with Kabila yet to appoint a successor.

“I will designate shortly the prime minister who will be charged with forming the government with the principal objective to lead the people to elections,” Kabila said.

On Sunday, Congo’s largest opposition platform, the Rassemblement, reiterated its rejection of the October accord and called for new protests on Nov. 19.

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