Thursday, 22 September 2016

Kinshasa on the brink

This week President Joseph Kabila's bid to hang on to power in Congo-Kinshasa has finally triggered the violent clashes that opposition parties had long predicted. At least 44 people are reported by Human Rights Watch to have been killed after police tried to stop a demonstration on 19 September calling for Kabila to leave office after his second constitutional term ends on 19 December. A week earlier, talks broke down between government officials and opposition groups about a schedule for electoral registration and elections. The government wants to delay the presidential poll – and Kabila's exit – until next July at least.

World leaders were gathering for the UN General Assembly in New York as news of the deaths in Kinshasa came through, prompting Ban Ki-moon to urge Congolese security officers to exercise restraint. Opposition groups say hundreds of their supporters have been seized.

Although the African Union has maintained radio silence about this latest effort by the President to extend his rule, France condemned the government's use of force against protestors and called on Kabila to leave power as scheduled. The United States threatened to impose sanctions.

While leaders in neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville, Burundi, and Rwanda have extended their tenure, foreign governments have stayed out of the debate. But in Congo-Kinshasa, one of Africa's biggest, most complex and mineral-rich economies, France and the USA want to wade in.

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