DRC opposition chief barred from visiting stronghold

Lubumbashi - Security services in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday prevented an opposition leader and harsh critic of the president from travelling to his regional stronghold, forcing him off a plane about to take off, security sources said.

Charles Mwando Nsimba is head of the G7 opposition coalition of parties that withdrew support for the government in September accusing President Joseph Kabila of seeking to cling to power beyond his constitutionally mandated limit.

Officers of the national intelligence agency (ANR) took him off a regularly scheduled flight in Lubumbashi in the southeast of the country as it was about to take off for Kalemie, in the southeastern province of Tanganyika, a security source and a witness at the airport said.

"There has been an order," the security source said, without giving further details.

Mwando Nsimba, a former defence minister and first vice president of the national assembly, was released and allowed to leave airport, a member of his family said.

He then held a news conference at which he condemned the "barbaric action" by the authorities.

Political tension has risen in the DR Congo in recent months ahead of a presidential vote due late this year, which Kabila cannot contest under the current constitution.

Kabila has called for a "national dialogue" to help ensure "peaceful elections", but the opposition says this is a ploy to get round the constitution and stand for a third elected five-year term.

Kabila assumed power after his father, president Laurent Kabila, was assassinated in 2001.

He took up his first elected term in 2006, under a new UN-supervised constitution which provided for two five-year mandates in the vast nation of some 81 million people.

He was re-elected in fraud-tainted polls in 2011.

The opposition, the UN and human rights groups have condemned what they say are the repressive policies of the government in recent months.

On Tuesday, almost 5 000 people demonstrated in the eastern in the eastern city of Bukavu to demand the holding of presidential elections in 2016,

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