The main opposition party in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has called on the people to no longer recognize Joseph Kabila as president, urging them to resist peacefully against him. Etienne Tshisekedi, the leader of Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), on Tuesday called Kabila’s third term in office as “illegal and illegitimate” and his bid to remain in power as a “coup d’état.” President Kabila assumed power in the mineral-rich country in 2001, shortly after the assassination of his father. In 2006, a new constitutional provision limited the presidency to a two-term limit that expires in December 20 and he is, therefore, barred from standing for a third term but refused to step down.
The electoral commission, blamed by opposition parties as taking side with Kabila, announced in October that it had postponed the scheduled elections from December 2016 to April 2018, paving the way for the 45-year-old president to further remain in power. The commission’s official decision and Kabila’s clinging to power have further angered the opponents, particularly in the capital Kinshasa, plunging the African country into more political turmoil and repeated bouts of deadly unrest during the past two months.
In September, a wave of deadly clashes pitting police against demonstrators rocked Kinshasa as the opposition demanded Kabila’s resignation. Over 50 civilians were killed in the clashes and dozens more were injured. The 84-year-old Tshisekedi on Tuesday called on “the international community to no longer deal with Joseph Kabila in the name of the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
Reports say protest rallies, though banned by authorities, have been held across the country in the past few days and scores of protesters have been arrested mostly in the eastern city of Goma. Although Tshisekedi urged people to peacefully resist Kabila, the video message could also push the already volatile country into more unrest and chaos as the president is resolute to oppose any opposition to his authority.
DR Congo has faced numerous problems over the past few decades such as grinding poverty, crumbling infrastructure and a war in the east of the country that has dragged on since 1998 and has left over 5.5 million people dead. Dozens of armed groups have been active in the eastern DR Congo ever since and the Congolese army, joined by UN troops, is on the offensive against rebel groups. The rebels are also accused of carrying out attacks in DR Congo and committing serious human rights violations, including recruiting child soldiers and rape.