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Avoid Bloodshed: DRC on Knife-edge

Moise Katumbi, the most popular politician in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to recent polls, has intervened in the countr...

Moise Katumbi, the most popular politician in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to recent polls, has intervened in the country’s ongoing crisis by calling on the president, Joseph Kabila, to stand down to avoid chaos and bloodshed.

A massive security presence, the suspension of the Internet and a wave of arrests appeared to have largely stifled expected opposition protests yesterday against the continuing rule of President Kabila.

With less than 12 hours before President Kabila’s mandate expired at midnight — launching the vast resource-rich central African state into the political unknown — there were only scattered clashes and standoffs between security forces and opposition protesters in the capital, Kinshasa.

Opposition leaders had repeatedly promised to launch a wave of civil protest yesterday to force President Kabila, who took power in 2001 and has won two elections, to step down and most observers expected widespread violence. The constitution does not allow a third term.
Chaos in DRC 

Katumbi, the former governor of the southern province of Katanga, called on President Kabila to step down before he became “an illegitimate” ruler.

“(He) does not want the elections so I am advising him it is still possible to leave a legacy. It is very important . . . At midnight on Monday (yesterday) he will no longer be a legitimate president,” Katumbi told the Guardian in a telephone interview.

Katumbi has been in exile since being convicted on a charge of fraud which supporters say was politically-motivated. He said he has no immediate intention of returning to DRC. Supporters and ministers say President Kabila (45), has no intention of clinging to office and have promised elections would be held as soon as practically possible.

They dismiss the opposition as troublemakers who do not reflect the will of the country’s 70 million inhabitants. Observers fear the crisis could plunge DRC, which has never known a peaceful transfer of power since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960, into a prolonged period of damaging, and possibly very violent, instability.

Such concerns will be reinforced by reports of renewed fighting in eastern DRC yesterday linked to the political crisis. A newly emerged armed group broadly connected to the opposition launched assaults overnight on government troops’ positions in North Kivu, according to humanitarian officials.

Police have been out in force in the capital, Kinshasa, and elsewhere in DRC. — The Guardian.

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