DRC's Kabila set to step down after elections in new deal

The agreement reached by Congolese political parties aims to have transitional government in place by March next year

Congolese President Joseph Kabila will step down after elections held before the end of 2017, under a draft deal struck by political parties, according to a lead mediator from the Catholic Church.

Under the deal made on Friday, but not yet signed, Kabila will be unable to change the constitution to extend his mandate and run for a third term, said Marcel Utembi, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

READ MORE: Priests urge peace deal amid mounting pressure in DRC

A transitional government will be put into place by March next year, said Al Jazeera’s Fahmida Miller, reporting from neighbouring Kenya.

“During the time of the transitional government, they will be looking at appointing a prime minister from the opposition. That was vital for the opposition because it needed a bigger stake in the government,” she said before adding politicians in exile may also be allowed to return without a fear of prosecution.

“But there seems to be a number of questions around opposition politicians within DRC who have been arrested. They won’t necessarily be freed any time soon,” she said.

“What this agreement is talking about is a sort of commission being set up that would look at these political prisoners case by case and determine their fate.” Peaceful transfer of power

If the deal is finalised, it will be DRC’s first peaceful transfer of power since independence in 1960.

READ MORE: Majority of DRC residents want Kabila to step down

Kabila’s two-term mandate ended on December 19, but authorities have effectively extended it until 2018.

His actions sparked demonstrations, with security forces killing about 40 people last week.

Western and African powers feared the failure to secure a peaceful transition of power could lead to a repeat of conflicts seen between 1996 and 2003 in eastern Congo in which millions died, mostly from starvation and disease. - Al Jazeera

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