Priests urge peace deal amid mounting pressure in DRC

Following deadly protests in the country on Tuesday, the Roman Catholic bishops leading peace talks say a deal must be struck 'before Christmas'.

Roman Catholic bishops sponsoring vital talks to seek a peaceful outcome to the country’s mounting political crisis said a deal must be reached “before Christmas”.

The call came a day after deadly protests against President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down at the end of his mandate. According to a UN provisional toll, 19 people were killed and 45 hurt in the violence.

Tensions ran high in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday, with police out in force in the capital and activity slowed following the deadly protests against President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down as his mandate ends.

Life very slowly resumed in Kinshasa, a megacity of 10-million, with few buses and taxis on the streets at morning rush-hour, trading slack at the market, and troops and police posted at major crossroads.

Kabila’s second and final term in office ran out Tuesday with no election on the near horizon and no sign of plans to leave power any time soon.

So far the mainstream opposition has called for “peaceful resistance” from the DRC’s 70-million people in hopes of clinching a deal at the negotiating table.

But gunfire rang out across the vast and troubled nation as protests erupted Tuesday.

A day after the UN’s large DRC mission, MONUSCO, voiced alarm over the detention of 113 opposition leaders and civil society activists in just four days, there were fresh arrests in eastern Goma.

In what Kabila’s opponents dubbed “a provocation”, a new government was announced overnight Monday to Tuesday, headed by Samy Badibanga.

The freshly appointed Cabinet is part of an October deal struck between the ruling party and tiny fringe opposition groups enabling Kabila to remain in office pending elections in April 2018.

A call for a ‘peaceful’ resistance
However, the main opposition bloc headed by 84-year-old Etienne Tshisekedi rejects the plan. It wants elections next year – along with a pledge that Kabila will not stand.

Kabila (45) who has ruled since 2001, is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term but under a controversial recent constitutional court order, he may stay on until a successor is chosen.

In a YouTube video, Tshisekedi launched “a solemn appeal to the Congolese people to no longer recognise the authority of Mr. Joseph Kabila, to the international community to no longer deal with Joseph Kabila in the name of the Democratic Republic of Congo”.

He urged people “to peacefully resist the coup d’etat”.

The message was not available in the DRC, where authorities have since Sunday imposed strict controls on social media networks.

In Rome, Pope Francis appealed to the people of the DRC to be “artisans of peace” at his weekly audience.

“May those who are in positions of political responsibility listen to the voice of their conscience, learn to see the cruel sufferings of their fellow citizens and have at heart the common good.”

The DRC has never witnessed a democratic transfer of power following polls since independence from Belgium in 1960.

The president has been in office since his father Laurent Kabila’s assassination in 2001. He was elected in 2006, and again in 2011.

Some two decades ago, the country collapsed into the deadliest conflict in modern African history. Its two wars in the late 1990s and early 2000s dragged in at least six African armies and left more than three million dead. – AFP

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