There have been angry protests in Democratic Republic of Congo, calling for President Joseph Kabila’s resignation. Kabila has been in power since 2001. His second term in office officially ended in December 2016, but he is still there – refusing to leave. The UN Secretary-General has now waded into the crisis following deadly clashes in the capital, Kinshasa.
Congolese protested in Kinshasa on Sunday for President Joseph Kabila to leave, but the peaceful demonstrations turned violent. At least seven people were killed and dozens arrested as security forces violently dispersed protesters by opposition and religious groups.
State police and military officials in Kinshasa “repressed peaceful protesters”, a coalition of human rights groups said, leading to deaths, injuries and the arbitrary arrests of individuals who joined the demonstrations.
The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has now called on Kabila to peacefully leave office in accordance with an agreement he signed in late 2016.
The comments by Guterres late on Sunday came after security forces killed at least seven people and arrested more than 120 during protests against Kabila’s rule.
Catholic protesters rallied in Kinshasa and other cities after Sunday mass to demand Kabila, whose second term as president ended in December 2016, step down.
The president made an agreement with opposition leaders last year, brokered by the Catholic Church, to hold elections in 2017. Signed in October 2016, the Saint Sylvestre Accord stipulated that presidential, legislative and provincial elections would be held “in December 2017 at the latest”
That vote has now been delayed until 23 December 2018.
This has raised concerns that Kabila will try to remove constitutional term limits that forbid him to run again and extend his rule.
In a statement, Guterres urged all Congo “political actors to remain fully committed to the 31 December 2016 political agreement, which remains the only viable path to the holding of elections, the peaceful transfer of power and the consolidation of stability”.
The UN Secretary-General also called for restraint, urging security forces to “uphold the rights of the Congolese people to the freedom of speech and peaceful assembly”.
Meanwhile, about 450 Congolese marched on Saturday afternoon in the streets of Brussels to add their voices to the call for Kabila’s resignation.
Adira Kallo with agencies