DRC capital a tense ghost town as leader's mandate runs down

2016-12-19 12:19
Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila. (Photo: AFP)

Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila. (Photo: AFP) (Joseph Kabila )

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Kinshasa - Workers and schoolchildren stayed at home and patrolling soldiers outnumbered civilians in some parts of Kinshasa on Monday as tensions rose with one day left of Congolese President Joseph Kabila's mandate.

Kabila's second term ends on December 20 but he has shown no sign of stepping down and mediation talks have failed, sparking fears of fresh political violence in the mineral-rich but unstable Democratic Republic of Congo.

Capital Kinshasa, normally a teeming megacity home to 10 million people, was a shadow of its normal self early Monday, according to AFP journalists there, with quiet main city arteries almost empty of traffic.

Public transport was running a minimal service and in the north and east of the city, soldiers and police outnumbered passers-by.

Shops were shuttered in the city's main square with an armoured police vehicle stationed on one corner.

Kabila, 45, is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term but has indicated he wants to stay in power until a successor is chosen.

Negotiations 

However, no elections are planned and some opposition figures want him to hand over to a transitional leadership until a vote can be organised.

In a last-ditch bid to achieve a peaceful transfer of power, talks took place between the ruling party and fringe opposition groups allied against a mainstream opposition coalition led by 84-year-old Etienne Tshisekedi.

But despite more than a week of mediation they broke up on Saturday, with no progress made on the main issues that divide the two sides.

Negotiations are due to resume on Wednesday when Catholic bishops acting as mediators return from a long-planned trip to Rome - a day after Kabila's term ends.

The president has been in power since his father Laurent Kabila was assassinated in 2001. He was elected in 2006, and again in 2011, in a poll the opposition decried as rigged.

Tshisekedi's opposition grouping has threatened to bring people into the streets from Monday if the talks failed.

Leaflets urging people to retake Kinshasa "street by street, district by district until we retake the whole of the DRC", have begun to circulate in the capital.

But so far the opposition has refrained from urging a general mobilisation, while the international community has pleaded for calm on all sides.

Tensions were also running high elsewhere in the country, with security heightened notably in the towns of Lubumbashi, Goma and Kisangani.

Read more on:    joseph kabila  |  etienne tshisekedi  |  drc  |  central africa

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