Agreement reached by Congolese political parties aims to have transitional government in place by March.
President Joseph Kabila will step down as president of the Democratic Republic of Congo after elections held before the end of 2017, under a draft agreement reached by political parties, according to a lead mediator from the Catholic Church.
Under the deal, reached on New Year’s eve but not yet signed, Kabila will be unable to change the constitution to extend his mandate and run for a third term, said, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in the Congo.
A transitional government, to be headed by a member of the opposition, will be put in place by March.
Politicians in exile may also be allowed to return without a fear of prosecution.
If the deal is finalised, it will be Congo’s first peaceful transfer of power since independence in 1960.
Kabila’s two-term mandate ended on 19 December, but by refusing to organise new elections he has effectively extended his tenure until 2018.
Kabila’s actions led to demonstrations, with security forces killing about 40 people just last week alone.
He has been in power since 2001, after his father was assassinated.
Western and African powers feared the failure to secure a peaceful transition of power could lead to a repeat of conflicts seen between 1996 and 2003 in eastern Congo in which millions died, mostly from starvation and disease.
Adira Kallo with agencies