Congo Talks on Kabila Exit Falter as Security Boosted in Capital

Talks between the ruling party and the opposition in the Democratic Republic of Congo aimed at getting President Joseph Kabila to stand down faltered as the authorities boosted security in the capital, Kinshasa, to head off potential unrest.

Congo’s powerful Conference of Catholic Bishops, which is mediating the talks, had said it hoped to sign an agreement by Friday. Felix Tshisekedi, a spokesman for the opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress, said the discussions were faltering.

“At this stage we are closer to a rupture than a solution,” he said on his Twitter account after a meeting with Catholic bishops.

The failure to find common ground risks prolonging a political crisis that left at least 40 dead last week as opposition supporters protested Kabila’s decision to stay in power after his second and constitutionally final term ended on Dec. 19. Police spokesman Colonel Pierre Mwanamputu said increased security was being deployed in Kinshasa in case of unrest this weekend.

Elections were originally scheduled for November in Africa’s biggest copper producer, but were delayed by the country’s election commission, which cited financial and logistical constraints. Under an October political agreement that was rejected by Congo’s largest opposition parties, Kabila can remain in office as head of an interim government until elections are held in April 2018.

Last week, the Catholic bishops and opposition leaders said they were close to a new deal that would see Kabila commit to leaving office in 2017.

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